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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Panel Discusses Atlanta Courthouse Shootings; Ashley Smith Speaks Out
Aired March 13, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, CNN HOST: Tonight, inside the life of the suspect in the murders that terrorized the city of Atlanta. And inside the lives of his victims.
The latest on the Atlanta Courthouse killings, the murder suspect's aunt and uncle will shed light on Brian Nichols, the murder suspect, and his defense lawyer, Barry Hazen, is with us.
Plus, Don O'Briant, the local reporter pistol whipped and carjacked, allegedly by Nichols. He lived to tell the tale. Al Dixon, Fulton County Deputy District Attorney, at the crime scene where his neighbor, just Roland Barnes and his court reporter lay murdered.
Donna Keeble, friend and fellow court reporter of the slain court reporter, Julie Brandau, and the latest on how an accused killer with nothing to lose was ultimately captured.
Next on a very special two-hour edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace, in for Larry tonight.
It has been a dark, dark weekend in the city of Atlanta after a courthouse shooting that claimed the lives of three and then later another life lost.
Let's go straight to Deputy District Attorney Al Dixon.
Al, can you bring us up to date on Brian Nichols?
AL DIXON, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTNY.: Well, Nancy, as you know, Brian Nichols was apprehended yesterday in Gwinnett County. Apparently he had abducted a young lady in Gwinnett County and held her hostage, and apparently she talked him into actually letting her go, and then subsequently giving himself up. And so she should be given a lot of credit for what she did in help with apprehending Brian Nichols.
GRACE: We are expecting for the alleged hostage to speak later during this broadcast, and when she does we will bring that to you, as soon as we hear from her.
Al, I know he was taken alive. Are you surprised?
DIXON: I am surprised. I thought that this would end with either Brian Nichols taking his life or perhaps shooting it out with the police or killing someone else. I'm just glad that it ended the way it did.
GRACE: Well, Al, in fact, he did kill the one other person, allegedly shot a customs agent, had nothing to do with the guy's job, just to get his vehicle, right?
DIXON: That's correct.
GRACE: Let me quickly go to Barry Hazen, then we're going to Brian Nichols' aunt and uncle. They are with us tonight.
Barry Hazen, you know this guy. You represented him in the rape trial where you managed to get a mistrial. That is usually deemed a victory by the defense, to get a mistrial on such a violent felony as rape and aggravated sodomy.
Then the retrial started. Are you surprised he was taken alive? I thought there would be a shootout.
BARRY HAZEN, DEFENSE ATTNY.: Well, I thought so too, given the fact that there had been three or four homicides at that point in time, assuming he is tied to the fourth one, each one of the potentially a death case, I thought that this was probably somebody that was going to shoot it out with the police.
GRACE: Barry, in Georgia, more than one body equals mass murder.
GRACE: Which is a death penalty case, if they choose to seek the death penalty.
HAZEN: That's correct.
GRACE: I know that you probably won't be on the next case, because you may be a witness in that case. You can't represent him and be a witness in the case.
HAZEN: That's right, Nancy. There are a number of areas in which I could be potential witness, either for the defense or for the state, and so I'm certain I won't be involved in the homicide case.
GRACE: You're going to be tangled up in a mess with that, with the attorney-client privilege, a possible witness for the state.
Let me quickly go out to Brian Nichols' aunt and uncle. They are with us, to James Dow.
Mr. Dow is not only Brian Nichols' uncle. He is also a retired corrections officer.
Sir, you have worked in penitentiaries, correct?
JAMES DOW, UNCLE OF BRIAN NICHOLS: Yes, I have.
GRACE: And you retired from that. You spent quite a few years being a corrections officer.
J. DOW: 23 years.
GRACE: Mr. Dow, thank you for being with us.
Did you see any of this coming? I know you were there at Nichols' rape trial. Did you see anything coming?
J. DOW: Well, I was somewhat apprehensive about the way the security was conducted. I know it was completely different from the way we do it in Maryland.
GRACE: Yes, sir. What did you notice?
J. DOW: Well, normally -- I was a little apprehensive about the number of guns there. Normally, when we transport people, the person that -- we have two people, at least, and the person that is with the prisoner is unarmed while the person away from the prisoner has the weapon.
And, like, when he changed clothes, the person in the room with him while he is changing is never armed. The gun is always kept outside of the room. And while he's in the courtroom, he's not allowed to roam around. He has to be seated at all times. He can't have any conversation with anyone in the courtroom aside from the attorney or some officer of the court.
You don't talk to -- it's an unauthorized visit.
GRACE: Did you -- James, I definitely agree with that. In all the years I tried cases, the defendant, a violent felon, was never allowed to stand up or speak to anyone else other than his lawyer in the courtroom. Absolutely not.
Did you notice, James, a breach of that during the trial?
J. DOW: Well, I just thought it was their procedure.
But the thing about it is, you never know who you are dealing with. You might have a person on trial for a traffic violation, but they might have a pending murder charge or something that you know nothing about, so you have to treat everybody the same way.
GRACE: Let me go to Regina Dow. This is Brian Nichols' aunt. She is with us tonight.
Regina, I know you were very concerned when he went for this rape trial. Did you see any indication that things would go so horribly wrong?
REGINA DOW, AUNT OF BRIAN NICHOLS: Well, I didn't know things would go that wrong.
But they had been warned that something was wrong with Brian in the beginning. Everybody knew that Brian was a risk. So that's the reason I couldn't understand why they didn't take more precautions. GRACE: Why do you say everybody knew he was a risk?
R. DOW: They had been sent letters and everything, you know, to say that Brian wasn't mentally -- he was not himself. So I just couldn't understand why they just let him roam around like that.
GRACE: When you say letters had been sent, this is the first I'm hearing that. What do you mean by that? What letter was sent regarding his demeanor, his volatility?
R. DOW: I think his attorney had been warned, and other people -- I don't know exactly how many. I know they had been told that Brian was not himself.
GRACE: You know, Barry, she may be talking about -- or at least part of it -- when this guy -- and this -- Barry Hazen was Brian Nichols' defense lawyer in not one but two rape trials, same case. There was a mistrial, then they had to start all over again. So he is bound by certain attorney-client privileges tonight. He cannot divulge a lot of his trial strategy, but I don't care about the trial strategy. Did your guy have a shank, a homemade knife, two of them actually?
HAZEN: Well, what he had was what looked like a hinge, which was about 7 inches long and about 2 inches wide, had four holes in it. You could tell it had been a hinge from some heavy door.
He also had a piece of metal that looked almost like a television remote control, about that size. It had one hole drilled in it, and in the hole was threaded a piece of material about 1-1/2 foot long, so you could have used to swing this item around.
GRACE: Good God in heaven. When did he have that on him?
HAZEN: Well, we know he at least had it on Wednesday, that would have been two days before the shooting. It was discovered on Wednesday, after court.
GRACE: Where was it?
HAZEN: One in his shoe. And Judge Barnes brought it to our attention on Thursday morning, the day before the shooting.
GRACE: What did Barnes say?
HAZEN: Well, we were called into chambers. The judge called me and the two prosecutors into chambers, and the investigator, and we sat down. He showed us photostatic copies of photographs of each of these items. And he indicated he was going to put what he said was "more beef" in the courtroom.
And other things. He was going to take the pitchers off of the council tables and that kind of thing.
GRACE: Roland said this?
HAZEN: Yes, he said this.
GRACE: You're talking about the water pitchers.
HAZEN: Yes, the water pitchers.
GRACE: The metal water pitchers?
HAZEN: That's heavy plastic pitchers. Because he indicated that another attorney he knew had been hit with one recently and broke his finger.
GRACE: Right. Exactly.
HAZEN: He also asked me to make sure that any pens that I had given to Brian were taken back at the end of the day. He didn't want anything going back to the jail. But predominantly...
GRACE: Oh, Barry, Barry. All the signs were there. They were. They were waving.
HAZEN: That's right. But we mostly focused that conversation on what happens if there is a guilty verdict. And the idea was, if the jury came back announcing it had a verdict, that he was going to be isolated with the deputies on one aspect of the courtroom, and we would be moved slightly to another portion, so that if he did flail about we wouldn't be directly in the line of fire.
But this was -- this conversation mostly focused around what happens in the event of a verdict. We didn't specifically talk about what happens between that moment and the time that the jury comes back.
GRACE: Let me go back to Brian Nichols' aunt, Regina Dow.
Ms. Dow, what was Brian Nichols like growing up? I mean, all of us that knew the judge, that knew Julie, that knew Sheriff Teasley -- I guess we're looking for answers that may not even exist, but what was he like?
R. DOW: Like I said before, he was a good kid. He was a really good kid. He was one of the kids, if he came around you were glad to see him at all times.
He grew up to be a very good man. Bright, mannerable, you know, he was just a good person, a really good person.
GRACE: Had he ever been in trouble before?
R. DOW: No, not really. Just regular stuff, but nothing, you know --
GRACE: Like what regular stuff?
R. DOW: Nothing, really.
GRACE: Until the rape charge? R. DOW: Really.
GRACE: What did you think of the rape charge?
R. DOW: I don't really want to talk about the rape charge. I think the rape charge was -- I don't know everything with the rape charge, so I can't really discuss that with you.
James Dow, what do you recall of Nichols growing up?
J. DOW: As far as I knew, he was an all-American boy. He went to private school. He was fairly intelligence. I didn't know anything negative about him.
GRACE: You were going to the rape trial. Did you believe in his innocence?
J. DOW: Well, he evidence was quite compelling. I was really feeling very sad for the victim, and I was -- the whole time that he was on escape, I was really concerned about how the victims must feel, how terrified they must feel, not knowing where he was, not knowing if he was going to be captured.
But it seemed as if he was going to be convicted.
GRACE: Mr. Dow, were you worried that your nephew would come after the alleged rape victim?
J. DOW: I knew that he couldn't because I knew that he didn't know where she was, and I also knew that she should have been well- protected at that time.
GRACE: With us is Regina Dow and James Dow, Brian Nichols' aunt and uncle. We'll be right back. Please stay with us.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started right outside the courtroom, where Nichols was being tried on several counts, including the rape of a woman with whom he had once had a seven-year relationship.
Police say he overpowered the sole deputy escorting him to the courtroom from a basement holding cell, struggling for her sidearm and eventually shooting her. Police say he could have escaped then, but instead he walked across a bridge to the courtroom in another building to shoot the judge and a court reporter.
Another deputy was shot and killed as Nicholas fled the building, on the run, with no money and a loaded weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: Police posted an all-out alert. Signs on the highways asked motorists to look out for the car, but 15-hours after police put out the word for all citizens to look for O'Briant's car, it was a newspaper employee who discovered it, just one level below where it was stolen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: And that newspaper employee, Don O'Briant, is with us tonight.
Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace, from Court TV and Headline News, in for Larry tonight, and I want to thank you for being with us.
As many of you know by now, Friday a heart-wrenching case for many lawyers like myself who practiced in the city of Atlanta, in the Fulton County Courthouse, Brian Nichols stands charged now. He has been arrested. He has been apprehended in the shooting deaths of Judge Rowland Barnes, his court reporter, Julie Brandau, a sheriff, Sheriff Teasley, and an unrelated customs agent.
Again, welcome back.
Let's go straight to Don O'Briant. He is a reporter for the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" and he was allegedly -- and I'm saying allegedly until the jury comes back with a verdict, but I am not blind. I can see your face, Don -- pistol whipped and carjacked by the murder suspect.
Well, Don O'Briant, I am glad you are with us tonight, in more ways than one, sir.
DON O'BRIANT, "ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.
GRACE: Sir, what happened?
O'BRIANT: Well, I made the mistake of getting to work a little bit earlier than usual and --
GRACE: Well, that's bad right there.
O'BRIANT: It was.
GRACE: You should never get to work early.
O'BRIANT: And as I parked the car and got out, an SUV pulled in beside me, and there was a black man with no shirt on behind the steering wheel, but since there was a basketball tournament going on, I figured, you know, these fans show up in all kinds of attire.
GRACE: Yes, there were thousands and thousands of people converging on inner-city Atlanta for the tournament you're talking about.
O'BRIANT: Right. So he said do I know how to get -- can you tell me how to get to Lennox Square (ph). As I began explaining how to get there, he walked around his car to the back of my car, and reached behind his back and pulled out a gun. And said, "Give me your keys."
Well, I hesitated a moment and he said --
GRACE: Hesitated? You hesitated? When you saw this guy -- this is a big guy -- whip out a gun --
O'BRIANT: Well, I was thinking how much trouble it was going to be getting this car back after he stole it. That's why I was --
GRACE: I think I would be worried about my own skin at that particular juncture.
So what did you do?
O'BRIANT: Well, he said, "Give the keys or I'll kill you," so I gave him my keys. And I was reaching for my wallet, because I assumed this is what you might call in Atlanta a routine carjacking.
And he took my keys and walked behind my car, unlocked the trunk, and said, "Get in the trunk."
I said, "No." I also had a lot of junk in there, I wasn't going to be able to get in there anyway. Plus I'm claustrophobic. I'd rather be shot than have to stay in a closed place.
So he repeated it, and I said no again, and he stepped toward me, and I stepped back towards the street, and all of the sudden he hit me, and I fell on the concrete, and I could not see out of one eye. The blood was running into it. And so I just started scrambling toward the street and sort of collided with the dumpster that was there, and kept going, and hoping there was somebody on the street I could get help from.
There was nobody around. The Chinese restaurant was closed. I kept stumbling and running and I looked back, and he wasn't chasing me. A block later, two police cars came around the corner, very fast, and I tried to stop them, but they kept going, and finally I ran into a reporter, Drew Jabara (ph), at the next corner, and told him what had happened, and he said the same thing had happened to a lady down the street and the police were down there interviewing her, and he would take me there.
So when I went to talk to the police, I gave them my car's description and registration number and everything else. That's when I found out that he allegedly had already killed some people.
GRACE: Al Dixon, I don't quite get his MO. Taking one car, then taking another car. One car was found, Al, I believe, on the same parking deck from where it was taken. Can you piece together his MO, his modus operandi?
DIXON: I think when he got out of the courthouse he was just frantic in an effort to get away and would take one car and then ditch it and take another car, just in an effort to try to get away.
And when he got into the car in the parking lot, he either was not able to get out of the parking lot or decided he was going to leave that car, knowing that perhaps the police would then be looking for that car and he could escape on foot, and they would be looking for him in the green Honda. But I don't think he had planned all of this out. I think he was just trying to get away.
GRACE: Well, you know, Al, I get where you're coming from, but, Barry Hazen, why not just take a car and get the heck out of there? To me it seems very calculated to try to hopscotch from one car to the next to the next, so nobody would know what car you're in.
HAZEN: Oh, I agree. I think if that was the plan, it certainly succeeded. Because I was there all day in Atlanta, and the signs were all over the place, about looking for this green car.
The press was reporting a green car. No one was looking for somebody on foot. Everyone was searching for this car.
GRACE: Barry, I've got to go to break, but when I heard you were the defense attorney on the case -- Barry and I know each other from practicing law in Atlanta. You know, if you had been in that courtroom, he would have unloaded on you too. You know that.
HAZEN: The only reason I wasn't in the courtroom is because on that day, it was the first warm day that week, and I had decided to walk from the office rather than drive, and had I driven, I certainly would have been there when those shots rang out.
GRACE: We are talking about the massacre that has gone down at the Atlanta Fulton County Courthouse.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Gwinnett County 911 dispatcher took the critical call that led to the capture of fugitive Brian Nichols.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had a female call in saying that he was in her apartment.
HARRIS: She told police her terrifying ordeal began when Nichols forced her inside her apartment, tying her up while he considered his next move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: She told police Nichols forced her to follow him while he dumped a stolen pickup truck that police say belonged to an Immigration and Customs official who was found dead early Saturday morning. She told police the two returned in her car and for the next several hours she talked to him, until he eventually let her go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: That woman, this close to murder, is speaking out tonight, breaking news. We have the lady's name and it is Ashley Smith.
Ashley Smith is the single mother of a 5-year-old little girl. Her husband passed away four years ago. So she was leading her family alone. And as we speak, she is talking in depth. The minute we can bring you Ashley Smith, we will bring it to you immediately. So please stay with us.
With me is Brian Nichols' aunt and uncle. Before you guys get away, a few last thoughts with you. Again, thank you for being with us.
To you, Regina Dow, you talked to Nichols' mother today. What did she have to say about all of this?
R. DOW: She offers her condolences to the families who lost people. And you know, she is very, upset. And she would be here too. She just wants help for her son because she knows that this is not the person that we all raised. I mean, he was a good person. He still is somewhere down there. And he really needs help.
GRACE: She is in Africa.
R. DOW: James Dow, we were talking about the rape trial, and your belief that the tide was turning against Brian Nichols, your nephew. Did you ever expect this type of just out of control and violent behavior?
J. DOW: I could not predict that, but I was still somewhat apprehensive about the security aspect, knowing -- our thing was never present an opportunity, and I could see the opportunity, and that caused me some concern. In his diminished state, coupled with the opportunity, I think those were the two main ingredients.
GRACE: When you say diminished state, I mean, I haven't heard any sign that he had a mental defect or was insane. Do you mean just angry?
J. DOW: I corresponded with my sister by e-mail and she expressed concern about his possibly being suicidal, possibly not thinking like he normally would think.
But I would also like to say that it is impossible for me to imagine the sorrow and the pain of the families of the victims, and I would never want to trade places with them. But at the same token, I wouldn't want then to trade places with us. There are no winners in this. Everybody loses.
GRACE: You know, from what I've learned about Brian Nichols, he didn't have any type of drug or alcohol problem. He actually went to school at University of Pennsylvania, majoring in biology. He played college football, played the piano. I mean, was there any hint in his personality, James, any hint whatsoever?
J. DOW: I mean, he -- if you can imagine a 33-year-old who is fairly attractive, well-built, he's always lived a middle-class life. The world was open to him. He was living in Buckhead, driving a BMW and sometimes a Cadillac. How good -- I mean, I had I had it like that when I was 33.
GRACE: You know, Barry Hazen, the judge actually spoke to you about your safety from this man.
HAZEN: Yes, he did. When we were called into chambers to talk about the objects found in his shoes, one of the last things we talked about before we went back on that Thursday into the courtroom, the judge said that he thought the people who were most at risk in the courtroom were defense attorneys because angry defendants expected to be angry at prosecutors and perhaps judges, because they were just doing their job, but if a case was being lost or you lost a case, then an angry defendant would conclude that the defense attorney did not do his or her job.
And the very last thing he said to me, he was -- the prosecutors went out and then I went out, and he was behind me. He was the last to leave. He put his hand on my shoulder and he said to me as we walked in, he said, "Be careful."
And then we tried the case for the rest of the day. And that was like Judge Barnes, by the way, to be concerned about other people. That was his personality.
I want to thank Regina Dow and James Dow, the aunt and uncle of Brian Nichols, for speaking with us tonight about their nephew.
We are bringing you a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace, in for Larry, and tonight the friends, the colleagues, the coworkers, of not only the defendant, but the victims whose lives were taken this Friday in a court of law.
We have just learned that Ashley Smith is speaking out right now. Her husband passed away four years ago. She's got a 5-year-old daughter. She allegedly was taken hostage by Brian Nichols and is telling of her ordeal. We'll bring it to you immediately.
Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have a hostage situation. SWAT is deployed. We basically locked down the area, as you can tell. We're not letting anyone inside the apartment complex. If anyone inside the apartment complex is watching this right now, they are safe. Just lock all your doors. Stay inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The end of a 26- hour manhunt. SWAT teams close in on courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols, hiding out in an apartment in an Atlanta suburb. Police say he gave up peacefully before he was cuffed and patted down and mobbed by SWAT team officers and then whisked away in a Chevy Suburban to a local FBI field office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Gave up peacefully? Well, OK, if you don't count the four dead bodies he left in his path, I guess that was peaceful.
Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace, in for Larry tonight. I want to thank you for being with us.
We are bringing you a special two-hour report on the Atlanta Courthouse shootings that ultimately claimed the lives of four people, others left wounded, others left carjacked.
Let me go straight to defense attorney Renee Rockwell.
Renee, you were scheduled to be in that courtroom that day. Number one, why were you late, and thank God you were.
RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTNY.: Actually, I was early, Nancy. I was going to the courtroom. I was on the eighth floor and I was to be there at 9:30. My clients were to be there at 9:30 in the morning. It was about 9:00. I was actually on the new side of the courthouse, which is the secure side of the courthouse.
I was on the elevator. I got off the elevator. And as I turned the corner, I looked down and I saw a deputy's hat on the floor. I looked up and I saw a number of deputy's running towards me.
And I was joking with them. And I said, "What happened, did somebody escape?"
And I looked down and I noticed in their hands they had guns drawn. So I knew that something was terribly wrong. They were screaming at me, "Get out of the hallway." One of them grabbed me, pulled me in the elevator with them, and it seemed like there was about six deputies, maybe more, in the elevator. I was the only civilian in there.
The female deputy had her hand on her head, and her head against the wall, and she was crying. I said, "What happened? What happened?"
She said, "The defendant got the gun from the deputy and shot the judge."
I said, "What judge?" I was looking at all the different officers in the elevator. Nobody would tell me what judge it was. I said, "Somebody tell me what judge it is" and they said Judge Barnes.
I immediately knew that it was Brian Nichols, because we were all familiar with the case that was going on and that he had been cutting up just two days before that regarding security.
GRACE: Renee Rockwell is talking about how everybody knew it was Brian Nichols. This is a big courthouse. There are a lot of courtrooms running every day. I tried cases in that courtroom, where the judge and Julie were shot to death. But you know what cases -- where trials are being tried, who is on trial, who is trying the case. It is like a courthouse community, wouldn't you say -- Renee.
ROCKWELL: Absolutely, and, Nancy, let me just remind you that this was the fifth day of the second week, so that defendant had been brought back and forth from the new courthouse to the old courthouse. This was the tenth day that he was going to be doing the exact same route.
He had a chance to think about what he was doing, see the exit routes, know where Judge Barnes's courtroom was and probably plan this. Don't forget, when he overwhelmed this deputy, he was home free. He could have gotten right out that courthouse in the steps, the stairwell that he ultimately took. But he decided instead to go on a hunting spree. And I thank God that the prosecutor was not in there, because what I suspect and what I have heard is that he went across the -- when he overwhelmed the deputy, he went across the crosswalk, he went straight into Judge Barnes's chambers, looked in each and every room. He was probably looking for the victim.
He went in the back, in the judge's courtroom, at which time he shot the judge and the court reporter, and then he looked at the prosecution table.
Well, as you know, Nancy, there was a civil trial going on at that point. There was a female lawyer sitting at the prosecution table. They were not trying a criminal case. He probably looked at the prosecution table, realized that Gayle Abramson and Ash Joshi (ph) were not there.
It is my understanding at that point he left the courtroom. Where did he go? Right back across to the ninth floor, down the stairwell.
I was already outside of the courthouse, and I had run around the corner on Martin Luther King Street and looked down, and there was the deputy, Sergeant Teasley, that had been apprehending, or in hot pursuit of the defendant, lying in the stairwell right outside the building, and my thoughts is that he either chased him down the stairs or he ran around the building and was met with, I think, five gunshots. I did not hear them, but I saw the witness, and he was there, and he did not make it.
GRACE: Renee, you saw Sheriff Teasley...
ROCKWELL: Yes, I did.
GRACE: ...laying there?
ROCKWELL: Yes, I did.
Apparently, the defendant, in his escape route, I understand that he turned around and shot the deputy when he was in the middle -- the defendant was in the middle of Martin Luther King. The deputy was right outside that stairwell. And so the defendant couldn't have been but about 15 yards away from him.
After he shot Sergeant Teasley, he ran into the first parking deck. That is where he carjacked one person. That person's car was taken to the second parking deck, where he carjacked the gentleman that just spoke, Mr. O'Briant.
He took the car and just went maybe a couple of yards down to the level, and was smart enough to get on the MARTA train, at which point he took the northbound train to Lennox Road. You know what happened from there, Nancy. He accosted two people. Thank God he did not kill them. And then went on his way to a neighborhood, where someone was actually building a house.
It's my understanding that the Custom's agent was actually laying tile. The house was unfinished, so you know that individuals who are inside unfinished houses are probably not behind locked doors, especially if they're laying tile.
I don't know. It has not been confirmed. But he probably did not know that the victim was a Custom's agent. At any rate, that's where he met the end of his life. And he took his truck and went to Gwinnett County.
GRACE: You know, Al, listening to what Renee has just told us, Renee is -- before I go back to Al, very quickly, the woman that was taken hostage, Ashley Smith, is speaking out. Take a listen.
JOSH ARCHER, ASHLEY SMITH'S ATTORNEY: MALE: ...story. So she's hear to tell you about her story and answer some questions. And hopefully take back some privacy after we get down with this. So, that's what we're about.
And I'll let her talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Ashley.
ASHLEY SMITH, HELD HOSTAGE BY SUSPECT: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you spell Ashley? Is that S-H-L-E-Y.
SMITH: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smith S-M-I-T-H.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Josh, you're her attorney?
ARCHER: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's A-R-C-H-E-R.
ARCHER: That's correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thank you again for meeting with us.
I guess we ought to start from the beginning. I guess this started out early Saturday morning. Where were you? What time was it? And what happened?
SMITH: It was about 2:00 in the morning. I was at -- I was leaving my apartment to go to the store. I noticed a blue truck in the parking lot with a man in it pulling up. And he parked in the parking space. And I really didn't think too much about it because I just moved into that apartment, you know, 2 days prior. So, I thought maybe he was a neighbor coming home or something.
So, I left and went to the store. And I came back to my apartment about 5 minutes later. And the truck was still there. And he was still in it. And it was in a different parking space. It was actually behind one where I had left. So, I pulled back in there.
And I kind of got a little worried then. I thought there's somebody still in that truck. So I got my key to my house ready. And I opened up my car door and I got out and shut it. And I heard his shut right behind me.
I started walking to my door and I felt really, really scared...
GRACE: OK, guys. We have just lost Ashley Smith. We'll go straight back to her as soon as we get that sound.
GRACE: OK, guys, we have just lost Ashley Smith. We'll go straight back to her as soon as we get that sound.
Al, what I was going to ask you is, when Renee pointed out that this guy had been back and forth this same route, this is the tenth day, if you look at the jury trial, Monday to Friday, Monday to Friday. How exactly did he get the jump on the original female deputy?
DIXON: Well, Nancy, that's of course still under investigation. Deputy Hall, as you know, is in critical condition at Grady Hospital, recovering from her wounds.
But it appears that he got her gun from her and her keys and was able to let himself out of the --
GRACE: Hey, Al? Al, I'm sorry to interrupt you, dear. Back to Ashley. We got that sound cleared up.
SMITH: He said, I'm not going hurt you if you just do what I say. I said, all right. So, I got -- he told me to get into the bath tub, so I got in the bath tub. And he said, I really don't feel comfortable around here, I'm going to walk around your house for a few minutes just so I get the feel of it.
I said, OK.
He said, I don't want hurt you. I don't want to hurt anybody else, so please don't do anything that's going to hurt you. He said, you know, somebody could have heard your scream already. And if they did, the police are on the way. And I'm going to have to hold you hostage. And I'm going to have to kill you and probably myself and lots of other people. And I don't want that.
And I said, OK. I will do what you say.
He looked around my house for a few minutes. I heard him opening up drawers and just going through my stuff. And he came back in. And he said, I want to relax. And I don't feel comfortable with you right now. So, I'm going to have tie you up.
He brought some masking tape and an extension cord and a curtain in there. And I kind of thought he was going to strangle me. I was -- I was really kind of scared.
But he told me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. And he wrapped my hands in a prayer -- in a praying position, so I did that. And he wrapped masking tape around my hands.
And then he told me to go into my bedroom. And I sat down on the bed like he asked. And he wrapped my legs with masking tape and an extension cord. He also took a curtain and put it around my stomach. And he asked me if I could get up. And I got up.
He said, can you walk?
And I said, no.
And so he picked me up and took me to the bathroom. And he put me on a stool that I have in my bathroom. He said he wanted to take a shower.
So I said, OK. You take a shower.
He said, well I'm going to put a towel over your head so you don't have to watch me take a shower.
So I said, OK. All right.
He got in the shower. Took a shower. And then he got out of the shower. And he had the guns laying on the counter. But -- I guess he really wasn't worried about me grabbing them, because I was tied up. He asked me if I had a t-shirt. I told him where to find one.
So, he got dressed. He put on some clothes that I had in my house that were men's clothes. And then he came back in the bathroom.
He said, can you get up?
So I got up.
He said, can you walk now?
I said, no, but I can hop.
So I hopped to my bedroom and sat on the bed. And he cut the tape off of me, unwrapped the extension cord and curtain.
I guess, at that point, he kind of made me feel like he was comfortable enough with me that he untied me.
So -- we went back in the bathroom. That's where he felt more comfortable -- in the bathroom away from the front of the house, I guess. And we just talked.
I asked him if -- I told him that I was supposed to go see my little girl the next morning. And I asked him if I could go see her. And he told me no.
My husband died 4 years ago. And I told him that if he hurt me, my little girl wouldn't have a mommy or a daddy. And she was expecting to see me the next morning. That if he didn't let me go, she would be really upset.
He still told me no.
But I could kind of feel that he started to -- to know who I was. He said, maybe. Maybe I'll let you go -- just maybe. We'll see how things go.
We went to my room. And I asked him if I could read.
He said, what do you want to read?
Well, I have a book in my room. So I went and got it. I got my bible. And I got a book called, "The Purpose Driven Life."
I turned it to the chapter that I was on that day. It was chapter 33. And I started to read the first paragraph of it. After I read it, he said stop, will you read it again.
I said, yeah. I'll read it again.
So I read it again to him.
It mentioned something about what you thought you're purpose in life was. What were you -- what talents were you give? What gifts were you given to use? And I asked him what he thought. And he said, I think it was to talk to people and tell them about you.
I basically just talked to him and tried to gain his trust. I wanted to leave to go see my daughter. That was really important. I didn't want him to hurt anybody else.
He came into my apartment telling me that he was a soldier. And that people -- that his people needed him for a job to do. And he was doing it.
And -- I didn't want him to hurt anybody else. He didn't want to hurt anybody else. He just told me that he wanted a place to stay to relax, to sit down and watch TV, to eat some real food.
I talked to him about my family. I told him about things that had happened in my life. I asked him about his family. I asked him why he did what he did.
And his reason was because he was a soldier.
I asked him why he chose me and why he chose Bridgewater Apartments. And he said he didn't know, just randomly.
But after we began to talk, he said he thought that I was an angel sent from God. And that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ. And that he was lost and God lead him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people. And the families -- the people -- to let him know how they felt, because I had gone through it myself.
He told me that he didn't -- he didn't want to hurt the agent that he hurt. He begged and pleaded with him to do things his way, and he didn't. So he had to kill him.
He said that he didn't shoot the deputy, that he hit her. And that he hoped she lived.
He showed me a picture of the -- the agent that he did kill. And I tried to explain to him that he killed a 40-year-old man that was probably a father, a husband, a friend.
And he really began to trust me, to feel my feelings. He looked at pictures of my family. He asked me to -- if he could look at them and hold them...
I really didn't keep track of time too much, because I was really worried about just living. I didn't want to die. I didn't want him to hurt anybody else. And I really didn't want him to hurt himself or anyone else to hurt him. He's done enough -- he had done enough. And he really, honestly when I looked at him, he looked like he didn't want to do it any more.
He asked me what I thought he should do.
And I said, I think you should turn yourself in. If you don't turn yourself in, this is what I said, if you don't turn yourself in, lots more people are going to get hurt. And you're probably going to die.
And he said, I don't want that to happen.
He said, can I stay here for a few days? I just want to eat some real food and watch some TV and sleep and just do normal things that normal people do.
So, of course I said, sure. You can stay here. I didn't want -- I wanted to gain his trust.
Most of my time was spent talking to this man about my life and experiences in my life, things that had happened to me.
He needed hope for his life. He told me that he was already dead. He said, look at me, look at my eyes. I am already dead.
And I said, you are not dead. You are standing right in front of me. If you want to die, you can. It's your choice.
But after I started to read to him, he saw -- I guess he saw my faith and what I really believed in. And I told him I was a child of God and that I wanted to do God's will. I guess he began to want to. That's what I think.
He got to know me. I got to know me. He talked about his family. How -- he was wondering what they were thinking. He said, they're probably -- don't know what to think.
We watched the news. He looked at the TV and he just said, I can not believe that's me on there.
About 5:36 -- well, 6:00, 6:30, he said, I need to make a move. And I said, a move? He said, I need to get rid of this car before daylight, this truck. I said, OK.
I knew that if I didn't agree to go with him, follow him to get the truck -- he'd just take the truck, then one thing -- or two -- one of two things. He would kill me right then, and say, all right, well, if you're not going to help me, then I won't need you anymore. Or the police would never find him, or it would take longer. And someone else would get hurt, and I was trying to avoid that.
So I went. And he said -- I said, can I take my cell phone? He said, do you want to? I said, yeah. I'm thinking, well, I might call the police then, and I might not. So I took it anyway. He didn't take any guns with him. The guns were laying around the house. Pretty much after he untied, they were just laying around the house.
And at one point, he said, you know, I'd rather you shoot -- the guns are laying in there -- I'd rather you shoot me than them. I said, I don't want anyone else to die, not even you.
So we went to take the truck, and I was behind him, following him. And I thought about calling the police, you know, I thought, he's about to be in the car with me right now. So I can call the police, and when he gets in the car, then they can surround me and him together, and I could possibly get hurt, or we can go back to my house.
And I really felt deep down inside that he was going to let me see my little girl. And I said -- or then when I leave, he can be there by himself, or he -- he finally agreed to let me go see my daughter. I had to leave at 9:00, 9:30. And I really believed that he was going to.
From the time he walked into my house until we were taking that truck, he was a totally different person to me. I felt very threatened, scared. I felt he was going to kill me when -- when I first -- when he first put the gun to my side, but when I followed him to pick -- to take the truck. I felt he was going to -- he was really going to turn himself in. So he took the truck.
He got in the car, and I said, are you ready now? And he said, give me a few days, please. I said, come on, you've got to turn yourself in now. I didn't feel like he might -- I felt like he might change his mind, that he might not want to turn himself in the next day, or a few days after that, and that if he did feel that way, then he would need money, and the only way he could get money was if he hurt somebody and took it from them.
So we went back to my house, and got in the house. And he was hungry, so I cooked him breakfast. He was overwhelmed with -- wow, he said, real butter, pancakes?
And I just talked with him a little more, just about -- about -- we pretty much talked about God (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what his reason was, why he made it out of there.
I said, do you believe in miracles? Because if you don't believe in miracles -- you are here for a reason. You're here in my apartment for some reason. You got out of that courthouse with police everywhere, and you don't think that's a miracle? You don't think you're supposed to be sitting here right in front of me listening to me tell you, you know, your reason here?
I said, you know, your miracle could be that you need to -- you need to be caught for this. You need to go to prison and you need to share the word of God with them, with all the prisoners there.
Then 9:00 came. He said, what time do you have to leave? I said, I need to be there at 10:00, so I need to leave about 9:30. And I sat down and talked to him a little bit more. And he put the guns under the bed, like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm not goint to mess around with them anymore.
He gave me some money when I was about to leave. Just kind of like he knew. I said, you might need this money. And he said, no, I don't need it. I'm going to be here for the next few days.
I basically said, keep the money. And he said, no, I don't need it. He asked me if there was anything I could do -- or he could do for me before I left, or while I was going. He says, is there anything I can do while you're gone?
I know he was probably hoping deep down that I was going to come back, but I think he knew that I was going to -- what I had to do, and I had to turn him in, and I gave him -- I asked him several times, you know come on, just go with me. He said, I'll go with you in a few days.
But when he asked me, is there anything I can do while you're gone, like hang your curtains or something? And I said, yeah, I you want you.
He just wanted some normalness to his life right then. He -- I think he realized all this -- all this that I've been through, this is not me. I don't know, that's my opinion of what he...
Then I left my house at 9:30. And I got in the car. And I immediately called 911. I told them that he was there, and she asked me where I was. I said, oh, I'm on my way to see my daughter. I felt glad to just really be on my way to see my daughter. She said, you got to turn around and go to the leasing office. So that's what I did.
GRACE: That was Ashley Smith. She was held hostage by Brian Nichols, who we believe is responsible for multiple shootings at the Atlanta Fulton County courthouse.
Stay with us.
GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from "COURT TV" and "HEADLINE NEWS" in for Larry tonight on a special two hour report on the Atlanta courthouse shootings.
Here in the studio with me in New York is Brian Nichols' attorney, Barry Hazen.
Barry, this M.O., we just heard from Ashley Smith, the woman that Nichols allegedly held hostage before he surrendered. And it's the same M.O. he used in the rape and the aggravated sodomy, according to cops.
BARRY HAZEN, BRIAN NICHOLS' FMR. ATTY.: Well having been through the trial twice now, and having heard the testimony, I would have to acknowledge that the testimony of the complainant in the rape case is very similar to the statement of Ms. Shah that we just heard.
The allegation was that she was taped. The tape was eventually cut off. There was also an allegation that she was placed in a bathtub, and that he felt more comfortable in a bathroom.
Much of the complainant's testimony is activity that takes place in the bathroom. We have to acknowledge that.
GRACE: I'm asking -- the rape victim claimed that she was bound with masking tape.
HAZEN: Oh, she claimed she had bound with duct tape, yes.
GRACE: Duct tape. Hands, feet...
GRACE: ...had been in and out of the bathroom. The tape had been cut off at some point. A lot of talking, a lot of threats, reasoning on her part. All of this is the same is what I'm hearing from this woman, Ashley Smith.
HAZEN: And that would be true.
GRACE: I want to go to Donna Keeble, standing by. Donna Keeble is the court reporter that worked with the slain court reporter Julie Brandau, also a friend of mine.
Donna, when you are hearing what Ashley Smith said, and you think about this man being the same person that took Julie away from all of us, what are your thoughts?
I think I have Donna Keeble with me. OK, can't get in touch with Donna Keeble.
Now I'm going to go back to Al Dixon. Al, what do you think about the similarity between the rape case and what this woman is saying, Ashley Smith?
DIXON: Well, there are a lot of similarities.
DIXON: And I think in the -- a lot of psychological ploys he was trying to play with the victim. And -- but it's a powerful story that she tells. And she deserves a lot of credit for talking her way out of this situation.
GRACE: You know, Renee Rockwell, you have handled, as a defense lawyer, a lot of cases that deal with rape, aggravated sodomy, the kidnapping aspect of holding someone hostage. How does it strike you that the same M.O. used with Ashley Smith was what he allegedly used on the rape victim?
RENE ROCKWELL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTY.: It just shows, as moving as her testimony was, it shows that this guy that turned out to be an animal somewhere deep down inside, maybe it was fatigue that made him wake up and calm down. It just shows that it's a person that went well awry. And all we can ask is why?
I can tell you one thing, though. He talks about her being an angel. She is an angel. He talks about her being a -- him being a soldier. She's the soldier. God forbid if she didn't have such presence of mind to do what she did, because she actually had, just from her story, she had a chance to take off in her car. And he would have just been gone. He had two guns. He had some money. He'd have gone and killed somebody else.
Because remember, everybody knew about the truck that he was in, that he stole from the Customs agent after he murdered him, allegedly.
GRACE: To Judy Cramer. Judy is a court administrator at Fulton County courthouse. You know, Judy, I've just been thinking about Julie Brandau a lot tonight. How -- Barry and I were talking about it on the set, Judy, how you can understand certain violent felons -- they may be mad at the prosecutor or the judge. They believe it's, you know, our fault that they're going to jail. But to unleash that fury on the court reporter, Judy, have you ever heard of retribution on a court reporter?
JUDY CRAMER, COURT ADMINISTRATOR KNEW MURDERED JUDGE, FRIEND OF MURDERED COURT REPORTER: I have not. I have not heard anything like that before.
If you picked on anybody in the courthouse, she'd be the last person. She's -- she would probably be voted as the angel of the courthouse.
I can't imagine why he would have done that, unless he mistook her for someone else, or anything like that. It's just hard to believe.
GRACE: But Al, she had been -- Julie had been taking down the rape trial, right?
DIXON: That's correct.
GRACE: So OK -- so I guess in his mind, everybody in the courtroom...
DIXON: That's what I think. He figured that she was part of the trial. She was part of the system. She was part of the people that were trying to put him in prison.
GRACE: We are bringing you all of the latest regarding Ashley Smith. She is the woman that was allegedly held hostage by Brian Nichols after a shooting rampage. And when I say rampage, it sounds out of control. But we now realize that Nichols, who is facing a jury conviction on rape, aggravated sodomy, and carrying a machine gun type weapon, he was looking at a conviction. He could have run from that courthouse. He was free.
But instead, he went back to the courtroom to wreak vengeance on the judge and the court reporter, and ultimately, a sheriff and others. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: He said, "What time you have to leave?" I said, "I need to be there at 10:00, so I need to leave about 9:30." And I sat down and talked to him a little bit more. And he put the guns under the bed like I'm not going to mess around with you anymore. So he gave me some money before I was about to leave. It's kind of like he knew. I said, "You might need this money." And he said, "No, I don't need it. I'm going to be here for the next few days."
I basically said, "You keep the money." And he said, "No, I don't need it." He asked me if there was anything I could do or he could do for me before I left or while I was gone. He says, "Is there anything I can do while you're gone?" I know he was probably hoping deep down that I was going to come back, but I think he knew that I was going to -- what I had to do. And I had to turn him in.
And I gave him -- I asked him several times, you know, come on, just go with me. And he said, "I'll go with you in a few days." But when he asked me what -- is there anything I can do while you're gone, like hang your curtains or something? And I said (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He just wanted some normalness to his life right then. I think he realized all this that I've been through I -- caught me. I don't know, that's my opinion of what he...
But I left my house at 9:30. And I got in the car and I immediately called 911.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAZEN: I was about a half a block from the courthouse that morning. And first, I heard police sirens. And I thought something must have happened at Five Points, a block away.
But then I saw deputies running toward me with their guns out. And they're easily distinguished from Atlanta Police. The deputies have brown uniforms.
HAZEN: The police have blue uniforms. So I instantly knew that whatever it was that was happening had taken place at the courthouse.
I heard one of the deputies run by, talk about a suspect. Didn't talk about any -- hollered something about a description of the suspect. He also asked us to go into a restaurant right there for cover.
We went into the restaurant. And there was a gentleman with me, who is also an attorney, someone who I did know. And he got on his cell phone, spoke to someone and said, "Something's happening at the courthouse. Please find out what it is."
He was on hold for perhaps about a minute and a half. And then he came back. And the person talking to him said something about Judge Barnes.
GRACE: Oh. HAZEN: And at that point in time, I put it together, because I new the only criminal case in front of Judge Barnes that week...
GRACE: Was your guy.
HAZEN: Was my client, Brian Nichols.
GRACE: And you were actually en route to the courtroom?
HAZEN: I was en route.
GRACE: I'm going to go now to Tony Harris. Tony is a CNN reporter, who was there with Ashley Smith during her press conference, her speaking to the press.
Tony, describe this woman?
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, this is -- my pleasure. Absolutely my pleasure to do that for you, Nancy.
I've got to tell you, you all had an opportunity at home and on set to watch this news conference unfold. And you saw, and I heard a couple of your guests talking about how composed she was.
It's one thing to see it on television. It's another thing to be in the room with this woman. She walks in with her attorney. Her attorney's name is Josh Archer. And at about 9:09 tonight, she sits down. And the only prompting she needs is to tell us what happened.
She stands about 5'6, maybe 5'7. She was well pulled together, as you saw. And clearly someone on Archer's staff did a great job of getting her an outfit. And she looked great. She was very composed.
And after that initial prompting, this story unfolded, this unbelievably compelling story. And we are all hoarded into this lobby of this attorney's office. And we're jammed in there. It feels like it's 100 degrees in there. And everyone is sweating, except Ashley Smith under the hot lights, telling this incredible story, this story of a sense of purpose, of mission, duty, place, purpose, mission, all over again that it was her destiny, her fate that on this morning, on this day, she was the person chosen, and you heard for yourself, she believed that -- she believes that God brought these two people together, brought her together with Brian Nichols. And that her job for these seven hours or so was to convince him to not hurt anyone else, and to turn himself in.
It was just an extraordinary 45 minutes or so. Let me take you to one of the key moments. As I'm sure you felt, it felt to me that after the initial terrifying moments for her, she quickly, in some way or fashion, managed to in essence control the conversation, talking immediately about her family, humanizing herself to him.
To the extent, that by the end of the ordeal, this is what she says Brian Nichols said to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SMITH: I asked him why he did what he did. And his reason was because he was a soldier. I asked him why he chose me and why he chose Bridgewater Apartments. And he said he didn't know. Just random.
But after we began to talk. And he said he thought that I was an angel sent from God, and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ, and that he was lost and God led him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people and the families -- the people -- to let him know how they felt, because I had gone through it myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: There is, Nancy -- this was the moment. This was the reason I haven't slept in two days. This was the compelling story. We wanted to hear from this woman. We wanted to hear this story.
We knew what Brian Nichols was accused of doing. We had to know how she managed to walk out of that apartment, make that 911 call, and essentially bring all this to this conclusion.
HARRIS: Nancy, back to you.
GRACE: ...it's a miracle. Stay with us, everyone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: He said, "Do you know who I am?" And I said, "No," because he had a hat on. And then he took his hat off and he said, "Now do you know who I am?" And I said, "Yes, I know who you are. Please don't hurt me. Just please don't hurt me. I have a five-year old little girl. Please don't hurt me." And he said, "I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us.
More developments in a story that has rocked Atlanta. A deadly shooting in the Atlanta Fulton County courthouse claimed the lives of three, now a fourth. Tonight, we heard from Ashley Smith.
Ashley Smith allegedly was held hostage by the shooter for hours on end. Apparently, convincing him to surrender.
I'm going to go straight to Judy Cramer. She's the county court administrator.
Judy, when you hear this woman talking, I just wished to God he had had the same mercy on Julie, the court reporter.
CRAMER: Right. I think he would have if he had had a chance to talk with her. I feel like they were cut from the same cloth, the kind of people that just gave you hope, that really believed. That if he had just talked with her, he would have...
GRACE: In fact, Judy, remember when you were diagnosed with cancer, what Julie did for you?
CRAMER: Right, yes.
GRACE: Would you share that with us?
CRAMER: I sure will. I had been in and out of the hospital for several months before cancer was diagnosed -- ovarian cancer. And I had to go in for surgery in four weeks in the hospital for recovery.
By the time I was finished, I had run out of my sick leave and didn't know how I was going to go through chemotherapy and radiation that had been planned for me.
And got home from the hospital. And my secretary came in and gave me a letter from Julie. And she had transferred her vacation to me. And that was the first hope I had that maybe I was going to make it.
When you get that kind of diagnosis, you've got to a 50/50 chance they said. I had to make it. She had gave (sic) me her vacation. She believed in me. And she was the first person that I saw when I came back.
And I'll just never forget her generosity. That vacation time, I don't know if you know, but in government when you leave government service, if you've developed -- gathered up vacation, you can transfer that into retirement money. So she gave me her future. And she gave me mine.
GRACE: You know, Renee, how many cases did you and I have in that courthouse with Julie, took down our guilty pleas. You remember would line everybody up and swear them in, and give them their rights. You'd be begging for probation. And I would be wanting jail time. And Julie would be taking it all down, every day.
Rape trials, murder trials, civil trials, guilty plea. Julie was everywhere, Renee.
ROCKWELL: You know what? She is -- she will truly be missed. But the type of person that she was, she was quiet. She visited you in New York, Nancy. She was always smiling. She was always in a good mood. And I just -- it's -- I can see that maybe he would have had some problem with the judge, but I can't imagine him having any problems whatsoever with the court reporter.
I mean, she was -- if he had any appellate issues, she was the one that was taking it all down and capturing it. GRACE: You know, Donna Keeble is -- I think I've got Donna now. She's a court reporter that took down cases alongside Julie for many, many years. Court reporter of mine, as was Julie.
And Donna, when you hear this woman Ashley Smith talking, how does that strike you, knowing that this man allegedly took Julie's life?
DONNA KEEBLE, COURT REPORTER, FRIEND OF MURDERED COURT REPORTER: Nancy, I'm just speechless. I don't know what to say.
It's just a tragedy. It's a horrible, needless tragedy.
GRACE: I mean, Donna, when I think about how many times Julie came in at a moment's notice. And you know, you can get very stressful in a courtroom, very stressful when you're dealing with murder cases or mass murder cases, and you've got a jury and a judge. And everything's happening. Guns are everywhere. And the court reporter is really like an anchor in the middle of the courtroom.
GRACE: Dealing with all the evidence. I never once, not once, Donna, ever say Julie get upset or angry. Nothing.
KEEBLE: No. I mean, you -- you just -- she was the kind of person, she's just -- you always saw a smile on her face. A wonderful person.
And just -- when you work in that kind of situation, the stress is tremendous. But she was just that, you know -- just her.
GRACE: And Al -- Al, she had been assigned to Judge Barnes for quite some time, because I remember when she came to visit me in New York just -- just recently. She was talking about how long she had been with Barnes. So she had been with him for awhile.
AL DIXON, FULTON COUNTY D.A: She'd been with him for several years, Nancy, on and off. You know, it's part of a family that they develop in the courtroom with the calendar clerk, the secretary, with Julie, the law clerk. The whole courthouse community is a family and it's -- she's just going to be missed.
GRACE: Yes, I was trying to explain that tonight to some people here in New York, that you live through these murder cases and child molestation cases and you see the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. You see heroes like this Ashley Smith woman. You see victims. And you bond so tightly.
I -- I want to go to Judy Cramer. Judy, where were you when the shots rang out?
JUDY CRAMER, COURT ADMINISTRATOR: I was in my office, directly underneath Judge Barnes' office. We were on the sixth floor, two floors down. We heard that rat-a-tat-tat, and we were -- we ran to the end of the hallway where there are windows out on the garage, the underground garage. And we saw it being surrounded by deputies. We saw the deputy come out who ultimately got shot.
And we thought that people were being shot in the court -- in the underground. So we stayed there until I started hearing people screaming at the other end of the hallway. And some of the staff came down and said that one of the judges had been shot.
We had been told it was a female judge. And so when we found out who they thought it was, we began to grieve. And I could hear weeping throughout the entire floor. There are about 21 offices on this particular floor.
And the first thing we did was try to get that information corroborated and call that courtroom, and found out that that -- we really believed that judge couldn't have possibly been shot. And finally, someone else came in and said, no, it was another judge on the eighth floor in the new courthouse and named that person.
So we went through a second round of grief, and we felt like we had just been stabbed in the stomach or something, because the first time it was like, "Oh, my gosh." And the second time, we thought, "Oh, no. That's just -- it can't be him." And then again, the third time was when we heard another judge. We also heard that there were multiple defendants running through the building with weapons, possibly.
GRACE: So you were in lock down in the courthouse. Renee, were you in that same -- same position?
RENEE ROCKWELL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, Nancy. You remember, I was grabbed and whisked into the elevator...
GRACE: That's right. That's right.
ROCKWELL: ... when we went outside. But crazy. And Nancy, I wanted to get back to Julie. You see the picture of her. I think that picture was taken inside of Judge Barnes' kitchen. And you remember, he had the courtroom in the old courthouse. He was the only judge that was handling criminal trials in the old courthouse. And he would have had it no other way.
They cooked every day for lunch. You could go there at 12 p.m. and sit down and eat with them. That's what kind of courtroom it was.
But you also well know, Nancy, that, because it was in the old -- old courthouse, there was no security and no -- no waiting rooms for the prisoners.
GRACE: You know, Renee, when you were just talking, we were showing a shot of Judge Barnes. And it's so hard to take in not only that he's passed away but the way this all happened. It -- from what we're hearing, the facts that are emerging, Renee, it was so clear that there was a danger. The judge -- they tried to stop it. Days ahead of time, they had warning, Renee.
ROCKWELL: You know what? The security in the courtroom was beefed up, but the tragic flaw was the fact that it was a one-on-one with a deputy with a defendant that was going to ultimately have to be dressed out in civilian clothes and was in close proximity of a deputy with a gun. And he overpowered her.
GRACE: Very quickly, before we go to break, Barry Hazen is with us, the defense attorney in the rape trial for Brian Nichols. Do you think Nichols set this thing up by claiming earlier a juror had seen him in handcuffs?
BARRY HAZEN, ATTORNEY FOR BRIAN NICHOLS: What you're referring to is on Wednesday, two days before the shooting, Mr. Nichols had complained that a juror had seen him coming back into the courtroom following lunch. Judge Barnes called that juror into the courtroom and asked that juror, "Did you see Mr. Nichols during the lunch break?" She said no. That ended the inquiry. The juror was sent back into the jury room.
However, Judge Barnes then did ask the deputy, who was sitting in the back of the courtroom, is it possible that Mr. Nichols was seen by any jurors with handcuffs as he was marched from the new building back into the old building? She said it was possible.
Because really what happens is a defendant is actually marched into a foyer area where the jurors congregate before coming back into the courtroom. The architecture was terrible.
And Judge Barnes expressed not so much disapproval, but he did seem not to be too happy about the fact that this breech of a defendant's right may have occurred. And I have wondered since that time whether the reason he was not handcuffed on Friday was leaning toward not allowing him to be seen by a juror, and compromising security in the process.
GRACE: Right. And of course, Al, we've got to go to break, but the law behind that is that you can't put that image in the mind of a jury, a defendant in handcuffs, or that's a reversible error in some jurisdictions.
DIXON: That's right, and all the judges, they really strive to make sure that the jurors do not see the defendant in either his -- dressed out in his prison garb or in handcuffs. And they really emphasize that to the sheriff's department and try to enforce that rule.
GRACE: Al Dixon had to go process the crime scene as part of his duties. Al is the deputy district attorney there. And when he went into that courtroom, still there on the floor were the bodies of the judge and the court reporter.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY SMITH, ALLEGEDLY HELD HOSTAGE BY BRIAN NICHOLS: I started walking to my door, and I felt really scared. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE and a special two-hour report on the shootings that have rocked the entire Atlanta area, the city terrorized until Brian Nichols apprehended this weekend. Body count: four that we know of. Others harmed.
To Al Dixon, my friend and colleague. He's a deputy district attorney there in Fulton County.
Al, you and I both know Rowland on and off the bench, knew Julie, knew the sheriff. How did you manage to go back -- back into that courtroom? We both tried cases in there many, many times. To process that crime scene with Rowland and Julie there.
DIXON: Well, Nancy, you know, Judge Barnes lived on my street. We saw each other daily. He would go by my house on the way to work, and I would see him coming home from work. We'd pass each other going to work. And you see Julie. I've seen her over the years, hundreds of times in the courtroom, taking pleas, taking down trials.
It was probably the toughest thing I've had to do in my career, to be in there and to -- to see them in that condition.
GRACE: And I've got to tell -- tell you, Al and I have seen crime scene photos and crime scene autopsies, everything you can imagine that goes with felony prosecution. But I cannot imagine going in there and doing what you had to do, Al.
DIXON: It's -- it's -- it's indescribable when it's someone that you know, Nancy, and it's someone that you know very well, you know, two people that -- Julie and Judge Barnes.
GRACE: And Renee, I know it seems so cold to go in and process a scene and what we mean by that is take measurements, look for forensics, bullet casings, shells to match up to a weapon that may very well have been found in Ashley Smith's apartment. To take measurements, to get photos.
Renee, I know it seems cold with the judge and Julie still lying there, dead.
GRACE: But this has got to come to a jury one day.
ROCKWELL: I can't imagine a Fulton County judge actually trying this if it does go to a state death penalty case. But just to mention, Nancy, I was in front of the courthouse last night, looking up at the eighth floor. And the lights were still on, and Judge Barnes' lights were on in his office. And it's just -- it's going to be hard, but we're going back in tomorrow morning. Going back to court. And I'm sure there will be a big long line, and there will be extra security measures, et cetera, but it's just not going to be the same at the courthouse, for two reasons. No. 1, it's never going to feel the same. The comfort level's gone. But secondly, I'm sure that there's going to be widespread changes and probably starting tomorrow morning.
GRACE: I was just thinking about what you said, looking up and seeing the judge's lights on.
ROCKWELL: Nancy, I did want to talk to you just a little bit about retrials, because I know that we were talking about the 10 days that -- that the defendant had to study the courthouse. And it was probably more than that, including the arraignment and actually, all the trips that he probably made to the court -- to the courthouse for the motions.
ROCKWELL: But it's interesting, because in this particular trial, the state was doing so much better. There -- there are probably at least three reasons for that.
When I was speaking to Barry last week and he mentioned to me that the state was doing an excellent job, he told me that after the retrial of the -- or after the mistrial of the case last week that he and Gayle Abramson both had a chance to go in and talk to the jurors. That's -- that's valuable, because you can find out where all your loose ends are, what the jury may not have understood, what maybe they needed more clarification. Maybe they want some scientific evidence. I understand different scientific evidence came in on this case.
Secondly, you have a chance to -- the state has a chance to sort of use last week as a dry run or a dress rehearsal.
And lastly, the state had a chance this time to actually see what the defendant presented as a defense. So they were probably ready for that.
GRACE: That's right.
ROCKWELL: I'm sure that Brian Nichols saw the writing on the wall and had -- I am sure that he had planned this. I'm just glad that he was few minutes early and he didn't have an opportunity to get at those prosecutors.
GRACE: Yes. There were just a few more minutes, everyone, until the state and the rest -- and the jury would have taken their seats to bring Nichols in. Rowland Barnes, Judge Barnes was in the middle of a civil calendar, a civil proceeding he was trying to finish before the rape trial resumed.
Very quickly to defense lawyer Chris Pixley, joining us out of Atlanta. What comes now for Nichols, Chris?
CHRIS PIXLEY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Well, I think what's interesting right now for Nichols is whether or not the -- the Fulton County district attorney's office will actually pursue the rape charges. You know, a lot of people kind of laugh at...
GRACE: Rape charges? Chris, he needs to be worried about the death penalty. He doesn't need to be worried about a rape charge.
PIXLEY: Well, that's right. But it was interesting that yesterday Paul Howard, the Fulton County D.A., said, "We're going to go forward with those rape charges." And you have to ask why. I think one of the reasons why, Nancy, obviously, is this -- he's under indictment right now under those rape charges. This gives the D.A. -- it also gives the feds -- time to get their indictments on these more serious crimes, the murders. It also gives them time to dot their "i's" and cross their "t's."
Normally, an arrested suspect like this would have 72 hours to have the charges read against him. I don't know that that's going to happen. He's back in the Fulton County Jail. He's there because he still is under indictment for those rape charges. And that, I think, is really the wrinkle.
Of course, the other wrinkle is that there's overlapping jurisdiction between state and federal authorities here right now. And it looks, by all accounts, as though the state court and the Fulton County district attorney is going to get the first bite at this apple. But we have to wait and see.
GRACE: Al Dixon, clear it up for me. Feds -- what would the feds be doing on this case, because of the custom agent?
DIXON: Yes, Nancy, because of the customs agent and because possession of a firearm by a convicted -- or a felon. They had filings, charges on him and they are actually holding him at this time.
GRACE: So that's how the feds are involved. OK, Al, I know you won't show your cards right now. Al is with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. But Georgia is a death penalty state. And mass murder, under the law of Georgia, under the Georgia statute, is more than one body. And according to my calculator, there are four bodies here.
I not asking an answer, Al, because I know you won't.
DIXON: I can say that in this particular case, there are several aggravating circumstances. No. 1, you kill a sitting superior court judge in the course of the judge doing their duty, which certainly Judge Barnes was. That is an aggravating circumstance that causes the death penalty.
Also, you kill a police officer engaged in their duties, that is another aggravating circumstance. So there are plenty of aggravating circumstances in this case.
GRACE: Everyone, we are bringing you a special report. This is LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace, in for Larry on the Atlanta courthouse shootings. Please stay with us.
GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace, in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us. We are bringing you a special report on the Atlanta Fulton County Courthouse shootings.
Here in the studio with me, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner. What strikes you about this case?
DR. MICHAEL WELNER, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Well, this has a lot of things in common with other kinds of crime sprees and spree killings. I don't think we know anything about what was in his mind before this happened.
In my experience, in working on spree killing cases -- Taylor in Pittsburgh, Bob Evers (ph) in Pittsburgh, Wesugi (ph) in Hawaii -- the suspects were quiet, and no one saw anything coming. Family didn't see it coming. Even mental health professionals didn't see it coming.
And while it's possible, because of course he was going back and forth, that he may have come up with an idea, he may have only had that idea that morning. And one of the things that is important, imperative to do in a case like this is to find out what he was thinking moment to moment. Because this is all improvised.
What did he envision was going to happen once he took possession of that gun? What did he envision would happen in a courtroom? I think, you know, Barry is extremely lucky to be here. We don't know why he went in there.
GRACE: Right. Speaking of extremely lucky, another person extremely lucky, Don O'Briant, the reporter for "The AJC," "Atlanta Journal-Constitution."
Don, when you hear all of this unfold, what are your thoughts tonight?
DON O'BRIANT, CARJACKING VICTIM: I still think I'm extremely lucky. I mean, I don't -- I'm wondering what was in his mind, why he didn't shoot me. And I guess we won't know unless he can -- unless he starts talking about it.
But it seemed like two different people we're talking about tonight, the person that Ms. Smith was with and the person that I saw.
GRACE: Barry, you knew him. You spent more time with any -- with him than any of us. We're on the outside looking in.
GRACE: But even so, I still say I know if you're in that courtroom Renee told us he looked at the prosecution table. He looked at the defense table. You weren't there. The prosecutor wasn't there. And then he left. HAZEN: Well, it's interesting, because what I observed is precisely what Dr. Welner is saying. And that is that in all the period of time that I was with this man, and we spent hours talking about many, many things, he was always quiet. He was calm. He was level-headed. He was polite. He was respectful.
I never saw him raise an eyebrow.
GRACE: Well, then Barry, who was the guy that allegedly raped and sodomized the girlfriend?
HAZEN: If he did that.
GRACE: Who's that guy?
HAZEN: If, in fact, he committed those facts, then this is a side of his behavior that he never, ever showed to me. Not in the slightest.
GRACE: Renee, do you see an insanity defense in the making? I mean, where else can this guy go on the defense?
ROCKWELL: Nancy, when I was listening to Ms. Smith explaining what he was saying, he said, "Look in my eyes. I'm dead. I'm already dead." And when he told her that she was an angel and he was a soldier, that's the first thing I thought of.
It will be interesting to see if it's going to be a federal death penalty case or a state death penalty case. You well know, Nancy, that the time frame on -- on either one of them are much different.
GRACE: Very different. And as a matter of fact, they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. There will be two separate actions the defense want to proceed that way. Very quickly, Dr. Welner.
WELNER: You know, what does a soldier mean? I think your viewers should know that medical literature on spree shootings shows that these assailants commonly refer to themselves as soldiers in one way or another or gun enthusiasts. That's not surprising to hear himself refer to himself that way.
And I think the spiritual references through his conversations with Ashley are going to be key to be explored.
GRACE: Dr. Welner is a forensic psychiatrist with his insights on where this case is going and who Brian Nichols is.
Last to Al Dixon. Al, it doesn't seem right, really, for us to be talking about what will the defense be, who's going to take jurisdiction, what's going to happen next legally. I mean, the lights are still on, for Pete's sake, in Judge Barnes' courtroom in his office tonight, as if he's going to come back to work tomorrow morning, Al.
DIXON: Yes. And Nancy, these were all cold, calculated killings. If you look at the victims, they were all people involved in the government. Judge Barnes, Julie, the deputy and the federal agent. None of the civilians were murdered. It was calculated.
GRACE: Al, when you hear people talking about two different Brian Nichols, how does that strike you?
DIXON: I don't see it as two Brian Nichols. I see it as one person, and a cold, calculated individual.
GRACE: Al Dixon is the deputy district attorney, the assistant D.A. who, as part of his duty, had to go process the crime scene with Judge Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau still lying there in the courtroom.
I want to thank all of my wonderful guests tonight. Defense attorney Barry Hazen; Don O'Briant, the reporter who came this close to losing his life; high profile defense attorney Chris Pixley; veteran trial lawyer Renee Rockwell; court administrator Julie Cramer; court reporter Donna Keeble; Dr. Michael Welner; and deputy assistant district attorney Al Dixon, all bringing you the latest in the Brian Nichols shooting, the shooting at the Atlanta courthouse.
Our biggest thank you is to you for being with us tonight. I'm Nancy Grace, signing off. Good bye, friend.
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