The trial of accused Atlanta judge-killer Brian Nichols has been halted because of high defense costs, but what about the prosecution? No one knows the bottom line, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Nichols prosecution is running up a hefty tab of its own, a review of court filings, personnel and other information obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act shows. Some experts predict police and prosecutors will spend twice as much – $4 million or more – as the defense by trial’s end. Other court expenses, including jury costs and the paychecks of the judge and courtroom security, could top $1 million.
Judge Hilton Fuller has postponed Nichols’ trial until Sept. 10 to ensure full funding for the defense, which has cost $1.4 million so far. In large part, the spiraling costs stem from prosecutors’ decision to seek the death penalty. Capital cases require more lawyers, prolonged pre-trial hearings, and lengthy trials entailing weeks just for jury selection. Nichols has offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without parole. He faces a 54-count indictment that charges he killed four people in a March 2005 shooting rampage that began at the Fulton County Courthouse. “Any time you’ve got a case this heinous, it’s going to cost a lot of money,” said Atlanta lawyer J. Tom Morgan, former DeKalb County district attorney. “People say they want quick justice, but quick justice is expensive, too, because quick justice gets reversed and sent back for a new trial.”