Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Nichols Follow-Up

Posted by Maggie on September 18, 2007

According to the AJC, there was quite a hearing yesterday in the Nichols case. Although they reported yesterday that new GPDSC head Mack Crawford would be in attendance, it appears he was not. Instead the only GPDSC rep mentioned is Cindy Wang (she’s written up as Cindy Lang in the article, but the GPDSC website has a Cindy Wang listed as general counsel).

The positions were what you’d expect. GPDSC won’t pay any more. Fulton County won’t pay anything. The Prosecutors want to go to trial right now.

Sounds like defense counsel put on an awesome show:

During a two-hour presentation with three large video screens, the defense attorneys showed that similar high-profile death penalty defendants, including Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, had more resources to get ready for trial. Rudolph’s attorneys in Atlanta and in Birmingham, where Rudolph was accused of bombing an abortion clinic, received more than $5.3 million to defend their death penalty client, who pleaded guilty before trial in exchange for a life sentence.

Nichols’ case is also notorious and complex, and therefore costly, his attorneys said.

The March 2005 case involves 11 crime scenes and four homicides, plus hostages in two counties and car-jacking victims, Hill pointed out.

Prosecutors have 400 witnesses lined up, while Nichols’ attorneys have nearly 100. The case is further complicated by a recent motion by Nichols’ attorneys that they plan to use a mental illness defense.

Defense attorneys, who have already spent more than $1.2 million defending Nichols, pointed to projections that prosecutors are expected to spend close to $4 million. Hill said prosecutors continue to drive up the cost of the trial by interviewing more witnesses, whom the defense must then interview.

Fulton County Commissioner Bill Edwards questioned why Nichols needs more than two attorneys and this is exactly why. Four hundred prosecution witnesses. And I’m glad to see them reminding everyone that the prosecution has gone even more money crazy and they’re probably all salaried staff.

It bothers me that defense counsel keeps getting picked on. The reason the costs going up is the way prosecutors have chosen to make their case. It’s not just the death penalty, it’s things like a 400-name witness list. Why that doesn’t start making people question is beyond me. I understand the need to be thorough, but I don’t understand why the prosecution couldn’t lay out their case much more simply. Instead it looks like tactics to make the defense’s job more difficult instead of concentrating on a conviction.


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