Originally created 03/08/06

Nichols' parents uncertain of plea



JONESBORO, Ga. - The man accused of killing four people in a shooting spree that started at an Atlanta courthouse has accepted responsibility for what he did, though whether he will plead guilty or go to trial is unclear, his parents said Tuesday.

Brian Nichols' father, Gene, told The Associated Press in an interview at his home that he is hoping the case is resolved without a long trial that ends with his youngest son being sentenced to death.

But he and his wife, Claritha, acknowledged that much of what happens in the criminal case is out of their hands.

"I'm sure he has accepted responsibility," Gene Nichols said as he sat at his kitchen table in his sprawling home 16 miles south of Atlanta. "He and only he knows what happened."

Said the suspect's mother: "Accountability. We all have to be accountable for whatever actions we take. Even Brian."

Asked whether the 34-year-old former computer technician will plead guilty to try to avoid the death penalty, Mrs. Nichols said, "That decision is one that Brian is going to have to make."

The parents spoke as the one-year anniversary of the March 11, 2005, shootings nears. Their son is accused of killing a judge, court reporter and sheriff's deputy at the Fulton County Courthouse and a federal agent later that night at a home a few miles away. He surrendered the next day after allegedly taking a woman hostage at a suburban Atlanta apartment.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, while Brian Nichols' lead attorney, Gary Parker, told the AP in November he's open to resolving the case short of a trial to save his client's life. Prosecutors have refused to say whether they would accept a plea deal. Prosecution spokesman Erik Friedly declined to comment Tuesday.

In the interview, Brian Nichols' parents said they don't know why their son would lash out, and they've never asked him.

"Something terrible must have happened inside him to cause his reaction," Mrs. Nichols said.