ATLANTA - A judge refused Tuesday to release to the media a hard copy of a 7-minute portion of courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols' videotaped statement to police - at least for now.
Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller said he wants to wait until he rules on a defense motion before he decides on the media request for the duplicate of the tape segment. The defense has asked Judge Fuller to reconsider his rejection of a request to suppress the statement.
The segment, which has already been played in open court, shows a police detective reading Mr. Nichols his rights and Mr. Nichols' responses.
The rest of the tape, in which Mr. Nichols allegedly confessed to the March 11, 2005, shooting spree that started at a downtown courthouse, has not been sought by the media.
A media lawyer, Tom Clyde, said the portion of the tape being sought should be released because it shows Mr. Nichols' demeanor when police questioned him after his arrest the day after the shootings in which a judge and three others were killed. The media want to be able to duplicate the segment so it can be rebroadcast. The media organizations seeking release of the tape segment are WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A lawyer for Mr. Nichols, Robert McGlasson, argued that release of the tape segment could prejudice Mr. Nichols' right to a fair trial, even though the contents have already been played in court and been widely reported on.
Judge Fuller did not set a timetable for reaching a final decision on whether to release the tape segment, though he said he will wait until after deciding the defense motion to reconsider his rejection of Mr. Nichols' request to suppress his police statement.
In court papers filed Monday, defense lawyers said a prosecutor ignored the law when he interfered with Mr. Nichols' ability to speak with a lawyer before he confessed to the killings.
The attorneys are asking Judge Fuller to reconsider his June 6 decision to reject Mr. Nichols' effort to throw out his three-hour statement to police.
Mr. Nichols, 34, has pleaded not guilty in the shootings. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Trial is scheduled for Jan. 11.
Mr. Nichols was being retried on charges he raped an off-and-on girlfriend when he grabbed a deputy's gun and went on the shooting spree at the Fulton County Courthouse, according to accusations. He is accused of killing a judge and court reporter, a sheriff's deputy who chased him outside, and a federal agent at a home a few miles away.
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