The judge in Atlanta’s Brian Nichols death penalty case sent a clear message by halting jury selection yesterday: no money, no trial, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The third day of jury selection was scheduled to begin, but Judge Hilton Fuller granted a defense motion to stop the process until funding issues can be resolved. Defense attorney Henderson Hill says the defense team, which has spent $1.2 million, is tapped out and working without compensation.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Preston Smith said the judge wanted state legislators to take money from other areas, such as education and health care, to pay for Nichols’ defense. By some estimates, the defense will need more than $2 million. Frustrated prosecutors had urged the judge to continue jury selection in the courthouse shooting spree that left a judge and three others dead. Fuller has said he won’t cut short Nichols’ rights to a fair trial and proper defense. Veteran death penalty attorney Millard Farmer said Fuller blamed state lawmakers for creating an indigent defense program without enough money to defend death penalty defendants adequately. “It’s like buying a car without an engine or transmission,” Farmer said. “They want a facade of fairness without power. They’ve put the judge in an extremely bad position.”