14 Dec 2008

Life sentence for killer of judge and three others

8:38 am on 14 December 2008

A court in Atlanta has sentenced a convicted murderer to life in prison after he killed a judge in a courtroom and three other people while escaping from custody in March 2005.

Brian Nichols, 37, was widely expected to receive the death penalty for the killings. He was convicted in November.

But after several days of deliberation this week, the jury was deadlocked 9-3 on whether Nichols should receive life without parole or execution by lethal injection.

Under Georgia law, only a unanimous jury can lead to the death penalty. Nichols will likely die in prison.

Nichols told the court on Saturday he was sorry for his crimes. He received the maximum sentence on 54 charges including murder, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault and carjacking.

While awaiting a court hearing on a rape charge in 2005, Nichols overpowered a security guard at Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, took her gun and entered the courtroom where he shot and killed Judge Rowland Barnes and a court reporter.

He also killed a deputy sheriff outside the court and then a federal agent. Nichols also held a woman hostage in her home north of Atlanta before giving himself up.