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Nervous workers and visitors lined up Monday as the Fulton County Courthouse reopened under heightened security in the wake of the slayings of a judge, deputy and court reporter three days earlier. As the courthouse reopened at 8:30 a.m. Monday — almost exactly 72 hours after the shootings — at least 80 people waited in line to get past a security checkpoint set up inside the building. The line snaked down a hallway near the entrance. No jurors were going to be called to the courthouse this week, said Erik Friedly, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. With no jurors present, deputies will be able to transport inmates into courtrooms with handcuffs or any other restraints. The law requires that defendants on trial not be handcuffed as they enter the courtroom, to make sure the sight of cuffs doesn’t unfairly influence the jury. The suspected gunman, Brian Nichols, was taken into custody Saturday morning after allegedly holding a woman hostage for several hours, then freeing her. The woman, Ashley Smith, came forward Sunday to give an account of her ordeal, saying he let her go after they bonded while discussing God, family, pancakes and the massive manhunt going on outside her apartment. Authorities said the rampage started when Nichols overpowered a sheriff’s deputy who was transporting Nichols for the resumption of his trial on rape and other charges. Officials declared a mistrial in the rape case Monday, and federal officials dropped a firearms charge that was used to keep Nichols in custody while officials sorted out charging in the slayings. Michael Harris, 58, who was reporting to the courthouse Monday for jury duty, said he felt safer knowing Nichols was behind bars. ”To me, it was one of those unusual things,” he said. ”At any time, terrible things can happen anywhere. You just have to put your faith in God and keep on going.” Nichols could appear in court as early as Tuesday, authorities said. Convicted felon Richard Jadwin, 20, who was at the courthouse to check in with the sheriff’s department, said he was felt uncomfortable being at the building. ”I ain’t even going to lie, I’m kind of nervous,” said Jadwin, who wouldn’t say what crime he was convicted of. Those who stepped off the elevators in front of the courtroom of Judge Rowland Barnes saw crime scene tape and flowers where Barnes and his court reporter, Julie Brandau, were killed. Both victims had been working Nichols’ trial. Sheriff’s Sgt. Hoyt Teasley was killed outside the courthouse, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent David Wilhelm was killed later. Smith was hailed as a hero for the way she handled herself after Nichols confronted her in the parking lot of her apartment when she returned from a store around 2 a.m. Saturday. ”She acted very cool and levelheaded,” said Gwinnett County Police Officer Darren Moloney. ”It was an absolutely best-case scenario that happened, a complete opposite of what you expected to happen.” Over the course of the night, Nichols untied Smith, and some of the fear lessened as they talked. Nichols told Smith he felt like ”he was already dead,” but Smith urged him to consider the fact that he was still alive a ”miracle.” ”I believe God brought him to my door,” Smith said Sunday. ”You’re here in my apartment for some reason,” she told him, saying he might be destined to be caught and to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners. After Smith left the apartment and called 911, police soon surrounded her suburban apartment complex and Nichols gave up peacefully, waving a white towel in surrender. ”I honestly think when I looked at him that he didn’t want to do it anymore,” Smith said. If he did not give up, she told him, ”Lots more people are probably going get hurt and you’re probably going to die.” Choking back tears Sunday, she said she told Nichols that her husband died four years ago and if he hurt her, her little girl wouldn’t have a mother or father. Smith’s attorney, Josh Archer, said her husband died in her arms after being stabbed. Smith’s 5-year-old daughter was not at the apartment during the ordeal. The two talked about the Bible and she handed him photos of her family. When morning came, Smith said, Nichols was ”overwhelmed” when she made him pancakes with real butter. He told her he ”just wanted some normalness to his life,” she said. When Nichols finally let Smith go to a planned meeting with her daughter, he said he wanted to stay at the apartment for a few more days. But she said she thought he knew she was going to call 911 after she left. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that a courthouse surveillance camera recorded Nichols’ initial surprise attack on Deputy Cynthia Hall but that no one in the control center noticed the assault. ”It’s not just horrible, it was preventable,” Senior Superior Court Judge Philip Etheridge told the newspaper. A video camera that is supposed to be monitored by two guards in a command post shows Nichols lunging at Hall and knocking her backward, according to a law enforcement official who saw the tape. Etheridge said Hall, a petite 51-year-old, should not have been alone with Nichols, a former college linebacker who had been found with two sharpened door hinges in his socks earlier in the week. Hall remained in critical condition Sunday, Grady Memorial Hospital officials said. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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