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In an abrupt change, a judge has removed the Georgia Capital Defender Office from representation of accused courthouse shooter Brian G. Nichols after issues arose concerning one defense attorney’s eligibility to practice law in Georgia. Senior Judge Hilton M. Fuller Jr. presided over an emergency hearing Wednesday morning at the Fulton County Courthouse where he accepted the entry of appearance of Nichols’ new attorney, Gary Parker of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. The judge then dismissed Nichols’ former defense team, Christopher W. Adams, Christian G. Lamar and Joshua D. Moore, all of the Georgia Capital Defender Office. Nichols, dressed in a beige sports jacket, matching pants and a tan shirt, attended the hearing Wednesday amid the heightened security that has become routine in his death penalty case. Four plainclothes SWAT team members sat behind the defense table, and others were scattered throughout the courtroom. Fuller asked the defendant, “Do you wish to change counsel?” “Yes, your honor,” Nichols responded. UNPAID DUES Questions surrounding Nichols defense team arose as a result of a motion submitted privately to the judge by the Fulton DA’s office. In the motion signed by Fulton DA Paul L. Howard Jr., Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney Michele T. McCutcheon and Senior Assistant District Attorney Christopher M. Quinn, prosecutors asked Fuller to remove Lamar from the case because his membership in the State Bar of Georgia is suspended for nonpayment of dues. The state also questioned whether Adams, Lamar and Moore “were more candid with Mr. Nichols than they were with this court” when Lamar told Fuller two weeks ago that he was seeking admission to the bar but neglected to say he was on administrative suspension and ineligible to practice law in Georgia. The prosecutors’ motion went on to say that the Georgia Capital Defender Office is in conflict between admitting its failure to investigate Lamar’s qualifications properly and suborning a material misrepresentation concerning those qualifications. Lamar, who works as the deputy director of litigation for the Georgia Capital Defender Office, had not paid bar dues in Georgia since 2001, according to C. Tyler Jones, a spokesman for the State Bar of Georgia. Jones added that the bar is reviewing Lamar’s actions but has not decided whether he broke any rules. Atlanta attorney George O. Lawson Jr., who came to Wednesday’s hearing to represent Lamar, said his client returned to Georgia in early 2005 after being in Washington for several years. He paid his reinstatement fee and is in the process of being reinstated to the bar, Lawson said, adding that Lamar had been a member of the Washington bar and ought to be able to practice here. Lamar declined to speak with the Daily Report after the hearing. He sat in the gallery of the courtroom Wednesday while Adams and Moore sat at the counsel table with Parker, Nichols and Robert B. Remar, at attorney from Rogers & Hardin who represented the Georgia Capital Defender Office. Remar said afterward that he came as a result of the DA’s emergency motion but declined to comment further. NEW DEFENSE TEAM Although Nichols switched attorneys, B. Michael Mears, director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, said Wednesday that the cost of the defense will continue to come from state coffers, not Fulton County’s. Adams, who serves as director of the Capital Defender Office, declined to speak with reporters after the hearing. When asked why Nichols wanted to change attorneys, Parker would say only that “there were some issues raised” by the DA’s office and the defendant decided to switch. He would not go into specifics and instead repeatedly said, “Talk to Mr. Howard.” Parker, who said he has served as lead counsel on three or four death penalty cases, withdrew without prejudice the pending motions for a gag order, for the recusal of the Fulton DA’s office and for the transfer of all pretrial proceedings to DeKalb County, Ga. With those motions no longer pending, Fuller cancelled the hearings that had been scheduled for June 9 and June 10. The next step will be for Parker to choose co-counsel in the death case. 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 gun belt and keys, and retrieved her gun from a nearby lockbox. Nichols then made his way to Judge Rowland W. Barnes’ courtroom where he allegedly killed Barnes and court reporter Julie A. Brandau. Nichols is alleged to have killed Sgt. Hoyt Teasley outside the courthouse and David Wilhelm, a federal agent, in Buckhead, Ga.

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