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Nichols lawyers say no reason to impose gag order

ATLANTA - Defense lawyers for Brian Nichols said Friday they are opposed to a sweeping gag order being requested by prosecutors in the case over the deadly 2005 shooting spree that began inside a downtown courthouse.

Nichols' lawyers said in court papers that the prosecution motion 'is unsupported by relevant facts and authorities and should be denied.'

A hearing on the prosecution motion is scheduled for Monday. Nichols' murder trial, delayed several times because of defense funding issues, is currently scheduled to resume Oct. 1.

The prosecution motion, filed Aug. 3, seeks to bar public comment by prosecutors, defense lawyers, potential witnesses and others associated with the case.

In particular, prosecutors have complained about public comments made by the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council and others associated with statewide indigent defense programs about the high costs associated with defending Nichols.

The prosecutors also have complained about the comments some observers of the case have made about a plea deal Nichols' lawyers unsuccessfully tried to reach with the district attorney's office.

The motion said that out of a concern that the jury pool is being tainted by exposure to incomplete information irrelevant to the issues of guilt or innocence and punishment, it is seeking the court to bar anyone associated with the case from any further comment on any aspect of the pending criminal prosecution, including defense expenses and costs.

Nichols' lawyers said in their response Friday that counsel for both sides have been operating under a voluntary gag order for months and there is no reason now to formalize that agreement in a court order.

Authorities say Nichols was being escorted to a courtroom in the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta on March 11, 2005, for the continuation of his retrial in a rape case when he beat a deputy and stole her gun.

He is accused of killing the judge presiding over the rape trial, a court reporter chronicling the proceeding, a sheriff's deputy who chased him outside and a federal agent he encountered at a home a few miles away. Prosecutors say he took a woman hostage the next day in her suburban Atlanta home, then surrendered.