The Brian Nichols judge-murder case has drained the budget of the Georgia public defender system and brought all but a handful of its 72 capital cases to a standstill, reports the New York Times. Prosecutors say the evidence against Nichols, including a videotaped confession, is overwhelming. The case has cost the public defender system $1.4 million. Yesterday, Judge Hilton Fuller postponed jury selection until Sept. 10.
Fuller said the “issue of funding” and the “complexities of this case have prevented an orderly and uninterrupted” method of proceeding. The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council says it can no longer pay the three private lawyers on Nichols's defense team. Georgia is not the only state pondering the cost of defending death-penalty cases. The Colorado House Judiciary Committee voted to abolish the death penalty, replacing it with life without parole, and to use the money spent on capital punishment to help solve some 1,200 cold-case homicides. Maricopa County, Az., which has been overwhelmed by a surge in capital cases, may not seek the death penalty in some cases to save money.