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Prosecutors challenge accused courthouse gunman's effort to remove them

ATLANTA (AP) - The office prosecuting accused courthouse gunman Brian Nichols said in court papers its interest in seeing the defendant convicted of killing a judge and three others is no reason to remove it from the case.

The Fulton County District Attorney's Office said in court papers released late Tuesday it believes a defense motion seeking to bar the department from prosecuting Nichols should be rejected.

''There is a built-in predisposition among prosecutors,'' the district attorney's office wrote. ''For a prosecutor to be completely disinterested and unbiased would be a violation of the duty to prosecute criminal offenders.''

Defense lawyers said in their Oct. 21 motion to disqualify that the district attorney's office can't objectively prosecute Nichols for the March 11 shootings that started at a downtown courthouse in part because of comments prosecutors made afterward asserting Nichols' guilt. The motion also noted that the courthouse contains the district attorney's office and some Fulton County prosecutors could be witnesses at trial.

''Due process demands that criminal defendants are entitled to both conflict-free defense counsel and conflict-free prosecutors,'' defense lawyers wrote in their motion.

There was no immediate ruling from the court. No trial date has been set. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Nichols is accused of overpowering a deputy guarding him, grabbing her gun and entering the courtroom where his rape trial was to resume. There, police say he fatally shot the presiding judge and a court reporter.

Nichols also is accused of killing a sheriff's deputy who chased after him and a federal agent at a home a few miles away that night before surrendering the next day after allegedly taking a woman hostage in an Atlanta suburb.