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A Fulton County grand jury returned an indictment late Thursday afternoon against Brian G. Nichols on 54 felony counts related to the March 11 violence that began at the Fulton County Courthouse. In a press conference shortly after Thursday’s proceedings ended, Fulton DA Paul L. Howard Jr. said his office will seek the death penalty against Nichols. Howard said he expects to serve Nichols at the earliest possible opportunity with notice of the state’s intention to seek the death penalty, possibly at an arraignment within the next two weeks. The prosecutor noted the unusual nature of Thursday’s proceedings. At the request of the defense, Senior Judge Hilton M. Fuller Jr. conducted limited voir dire on the grand jurors to probe for any bias formed as a result of exposure to pretrial publicity. In addition, Nichols’ attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender Office, Christopher W. Adams, Christian Lamar and Joshua D. Moore, were permitted to sit in on the voir dire portion of the proceedings. They could not ask questions directly but, according to the district attorney, they could suggest questions for the grand jurors through Fuller. The defense team walked out of the grand jury room after the voir dire portion but declined to comment on the case as they passed the group of reporters who spent the day camped outside the main lobby at the Fulton district attorney’s office. Howard also declined to discuss any specifics of the grand jury proceedings. Nichols had been on trial facing charges of rape, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and aggravated sodomy when the shootings occurred. On the morning of March 11, he was in a holding cell on the eighth floor of the Justice Center Tower when he allegedly overpowered Deputy Cynthia Hall, took her gunbelt and keys, and retrieved her gun from a nearby lockbox. Nichols then made his way to Judge Roland Barnes’ courtroom where he allegedly killed Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau. Nichols is alleged to have killed Sgt. Hoyt Teasley outside the courthouse and David Wilhelm, an assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in Buckhead.

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