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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
A joint interview with the victims of murderer Brian Nichols.
Aired March 11, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Everybody off the sidewalk.
ASHLEY SMITH: He said, "Maybe, maybe I'll let you go. Just maybe."
KING: Tonight, in their first joint interview since the deadly Atlanta courthouse rampage that held America spellbound, Ashley Smith, the hostage heroine who helped get the suspect to surrender after four people were murdered.
And the widows, Claudia Barnes, her husband, Judge Rowland Barnes, was shot to death inside his own courtroom. Debra Teasley, her husband, Sergeant Hoyt Teasley, gunned down outside Fulton County courthouse where he chased the suspect.
Candee Wilhelm, her husband, Customs Officer David Wilhelm, murdered hours later and miles away allegedly by the same fugitive suspect.
Plus Kiley Barnes, daughter of the murdered Judge Rowland Barnes.
They're all next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
KING: These extraordinary events took place in Atlanta just one year ago today. And we have a bunch of people who are victims of it and affected by it.
KING: On March 11th, 2005 at 8:49 a.m., Brian Nichols attacked Deputy Hall in a holding cell and takes her gun. He then takes Judge Barnes' staff hostage. He then shoots Judge Barnes and Court Reporter Julie Brandau. He then fatally shoots Sergeant Hoyt Teasley.
He then car jacks a green Mazda, car jacks a tow truck, car jacks a victim in a silver Mercury Sable, a blue Isuzu, assaults Dan O'Brien and car jacks his green Honda, and kills Agent David Wilhelm and steals his Chevy pickup, ambushes Ashley Smith and holds her hostage until 9:30 in the morning. Ashley calls 911 after leaving her apartment and Nichols surrenders peacefully.
A hearing is schedule March 27th to argue any motions pending on Brian Nichols' death penalty trial. October 3rd, 2006, is the tentative date for his trial. If guilty, he could get the death penalty.
Claudia Barnes is the husband -- her husband, Judges Rowland Barnes, was killed by Brian Nichols. Where were you, Claudia?
CLAUDIA BARNES: I was in my office in the state court building.
KING: You worked in the building?
BARNES: I did. I still do.
KING: Doing what?
BARNES: I'm a judicial assistant for a state court judge, Judge Mather.
KING: And how did you hear about what -- did you hear anything going on?
BARNES: Well, I heard the sirens in the street, and all the commotion on the sidewalk. And I had a phone call from a deputy, or a marshal, excuse me, who was assigned to our courtroom previously. And he called and asked me if I knew what -- all he said was, "Do you know what courtroom your judge is in?" And I'm thinking the judge I work for, and I'm, like, "Well, yeah, I'm in 2E. Why are you asking me that?" And he said, "Well, stay in your room, and don't go out. There is a defendant on the loose, and he has a gun, and you need to be secure, and I'll call you back."
So a little while later, he called back and wanted to know what courtroom Judge Rowland Barnes was in. And I had to look down the list because he was saying that he thought someone in 8H -- I mean 8A had been murdered, and it was 8H.
KING: Your husband?
KING: Do you know why he was shot?
BARNES: I only know what I heard on the recording that they gave on the TV, that he was doing something against the system. To prove a point.
KING: The assailant felt the judge was doing something against the system?
BARNES: Well, he just felt like the judge and the court reporter were part of the judicial system and he did not like that.
KING: Deborah Teasley, her husband, Sergeant Hoyt Teasley, was killed by Brian Nichols.
Where was he, Deborah?
DEBORAH TEASLEY: Where was my husband?
TEASLEY: As far as I know, he followed him down a flight of steps after he got the call, and chased him outside.
KING: He was in the courthouse, then?
TEASLEY: That's correct.
KING: Is that where he's normally stationed?
KING: And so the judge had been shot. And then your husband is chasing the accused, Mr. Nichols, down the courtroom. And where is he shot?
TEASLEY: Outside on the steps -- on some steps beside the sidewalk.
KING: How did you hear about it?
TEASLEY: I heard it at 9:00 a.m. on the news but wasn't sure who, who was the victims.
KING: You knew that a police officer had been shot in the courthouse?
TEASLEY: No. Not when I first heard it. I just heard that a deputy had been injured. A judge had been killed, and a court reporter.
KING: How did you finally hear it?
TEASLEY: My mom called me at work and just told me to get to the hospital and that he had been shot.
KING: He died in the hospital?
TEASLEY: No, I believe he had died on the sidewalk.
KING: They took him to the hospital then?
KING: All right.
We'll hear from Ashley in a moment, but let's check in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Candee Wilhelm. Her husband, David Wilhelm, was killed by Brian Nichols.
He was shot where?
CANDEE WILHELM: He was shot in the new house that we were building and planning to move into in a couple months.
KING: So in other words, Mr. Nichols, the suspect, got -- somehow got to your house?
WILHELM: Yes, sir, he did. KING: And shot your husband where? Inside the house?
WILHELM: Apparently inside the house, yes. Where he was working.
KING: Where were you at the time?
WILHELM: I had been there earlier that day and had taken him lunch. And that night I left and went home to our apartment in Peach Tree City, where we were living at the time, and left him to continue on working. He was doing some tile work in our shower. And I called him a few times throughout the night but couldn't reach him.
KING: Do you no longer live in Atlanta?
WILHELM: No, sir, I moved back home to Charlotte.
KING: Because of this?
KING: Now we come to Ashley Smith, the lucky one, who survived just by her own wits.
How do you look back at it a year ago?
Ashley, by the way, has written a book, "Unlikely Angel."
How do you look back at this?
SMITH: I look at it as a time that these women here have to suffer now because of it. But I've changed my life since then.
KING: You've what?
SMITH: I've changed my life since then. My life has changed dramatically since then.
SMITH: Like I'm a mom again. Paige and a just moved into a new house yesterday. I get to be her mom again. I've been clean for a year. And I tried to reach out to other people who maybe have the same addictions that I had and try to make a difference in the world.
KING: Do you consider yourself lucky or skillful?
SMITH: I consider myself blessed by God. For sure.
KING: That you feel god was present?
SMITH: Yes, I definitely feel God was present. I feel that God gave me everything I needed that night to survive the night.
KING: Let's go over it a little. How did he enter your -- how did he get into your apartment? SMITH: I had gone out for cigarettes that night. And when I returned, he was waiting there in a truck for me. And I went and unlocked my door. When I turned around, he was right behind me with the gun pointed right at me.
KING: Do you remember the first thing you thought?
SMITH: I thought, God's sick and tired of the way I'm living my life, and now I'm going to die because of it. I'm never going to see my little girl again, my family, this is it.
KING: Did you know all about the courthouse shootings?
SMITH: I knew a little bit about it. I had just moved into that apartment the day before and was moving my boxes and stuff. And I watched a little bit about it. My step dad called that morning and said somebody's escaped from the courthouse. He's killed some people. Just be careful.
And of all the millions of people in Atlanta, I said, whatever, I'm not too worried about it. I was concerned about going to work and getting myself put together.
KING: And he was in your apartment how long?
SMITH: Seven hours.
KING: You also read to him from Rick Warren's book, right?
SMITH: Yes, I did.
KING: "The Purpose Driven Life." Do you think that helped a lot?
SMITH: I believe that when he let me know that God was -- could be present, was at that time, and that made me feel a lot more comfortable to be bold, and even in a sense to try to treat him like a normal person. So I could make it out of there alive.
KING: When we continue, we'll find out about the effect of all of this on lives. We'll be hearing from others as well. And what roles the attorneys are playing, if any. Don't go away.
SMITH: I put my key in the door and I unlocked it and I turned around, and he was right there. And I started to scream. He said, "I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say." He wrapped my legs with masking tape and an extension cord.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel sorry for him, Ashley?
SMITH: Yes, I feel sorry for him because I really don't think he meant -- he didn't -- I don't think he realized what he was doing when he was doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: 9:00 a.m., Friday, Fulton County courthouse in downtown Atlanta. 6'1" Brian Nichols overpowers 51- year-old Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Cynthia Hall. He grabs her gun. She is critically injured in the shuffle.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Everybody off the sidewalk!
CORRESPONDENT: About 9:15 a.m., Nichols wrestles a second gun away from another deputy. Slip into the courtroom through Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes' private chambers and shoots him dead.
KING: Joining us now, in this segement, is Kiley Barnes, the daughter of Judge Barnes. Claudia is her stepmother.
How did you find out your father was shot, Kiley?
K. BARNES: I found out that daddy was shot. I was at work. I was working as a paralegal for an attorney in Atlanta, and I got a call from someone who I used to work with at another law firm. And she just kept asking me, "Have you talked to your father's office? You need to go to Grady." And at that time I didn't know at all. I had no clue what she was saying.
Another attorney at that time in the office, Bill West, heard me mention something about my dad, and he told me to put the phone down, and he simply said, "There has been a shooting in your dad's courtroom. Three people have been shot. Your dad was one of them. They don't know if he's going to survive."
At that point, I think that he knew that daddy was dead. I mean, because dad died instantly. I just don't know if he wanted to be the one to break the news to me. I went out...
KING: When did you know know?
K. BARNES: I'm sorry?
KING: When did you actually know?
K BARNES: I walked outside after that and got a call from my stepmother, Claudia. And I said, "Is everything OK?" And she said no. Then she put Lieutenant Smith from the Fulton County Sheriff's Department on the phone. And he said, "Kiley, what are you doing right now?" I said, "I'm trying to find a ride to Grady." And he said, "There's no need to go to Grady. Your father's died."
KING: Grady is the hospital?
K. BARNES: Yes, Grady is the hospital in Atlanta.
KING: You had spoken with your father sometime right before that?
K. BARNES: I had spoken with daddy several times that morning. I had spoken with him two or three different times. On the way, when I was getting ready for work. And I asked him if I could call him back when I got on the road. And we talked almost the whole time from my house, actually until I pulled up into my work parking lot. I talked to him about 8:30, I think. It was a long time.
KING: Did you know about this particular case?
K. BARNES: Yes, I did. Dad and I had actually spoken about it that morning. Briefly, because I always said, "Daddy, what you got going on for the day?" He said, "Oh, you know, we're starting this trial again." He said that a guy -- it was a rape trial. He had declared a mistrial two weeks prior. And the jury was 8-4 acquittal because, I guess the prosecution's case wasn't strong at that time.
KING: Don't you about wonder about what, then, Mr. Nichols -- it was 8-4 for acquittal. He's back in. What ticked him off?
K. BARNES: Well, I've heard about exactly what happened. There's jurors, after a verdict is read, get a chance to interact with both the defense, usually, and the prosecution. And find out where the holes in their case were.
You know, they get to ask jurors questions, you know, what did you think? What made you decide against -- for or against? And the lawyers also get to tell the jurors, what you didn't get to hear; he's been convicted of A,B and C earlier. I like to call it a powwow afterwards.
And I think that Nichols had -- this is just speculation -- but I think Nichols has heard what was going on and knew that maybe the prosecution might have a stronger case. And decided just to get his revenge.
KING: You were very close to your father, right?
K. BARNES: Absolutely. We were extremely close. He was my best friend.
KING: Do you have brothers and sisters?
K. BARNES: I have a half sister who is 20 years my senior. She was raised by her mother in Michigan. So it was just daddy and I growing up. I was raised as an only child.
KING: Like daddies and daughters, right?
K. BARNES: Yes.
KING: What does it feel like a year later?
K. BARNES: It still feels -- I have an emptiness that can't be explained and will never be fulfilled. I loved my daddy, and he loved me. We had a very, very, very strong relationship. And it's hard not to hear his words of wisdom.
KING: Are you as angry as these others are?
K. BARNES: I don't know how angry they are, but I would imagine so.
KING: Well, it seems to me that your stepmother's angry. And Candee's angry and Deborah's angry.
K. BARNES: They have every right to be, absolutely. I feel their pain. I can't imagine what it's like to lose a husband, but now I know what it's like to lose my daddy.
KING: Claudia, are you close with Kiley?
BARNES: Am I close with Kiley?
KING: It's not the greatest of closeness?
BARNES: We've been better friends before.
KING: Has this caused you to get closer or not?
K. BARNES: No, sir. I've had a lot going on in my life, and she has hers, I'm sure. And we just haven't gotten together as much as we should.
As much as I would like.
KING: You would like it more?
K. BARNES: Absolutely.
KING: So why not here. We do it tonight. Come together. When you go back to Atlanta, go see your mom.
K. BARNES: Step mom.
KING: Your step mom.
K. BARNES: I mean, I would love to. You know, we both have different schedules, and I think that...
KING: Have issues.
K. BARNES: We have some issues, but I don't think that those are issues that can't be resolved. I know daddy would like for us to have a closer relationship, and as would I. I think I owe it to -- not only the woman that he was deeply in love with, but I owe it to myself and I owe it to my dad. And it's definitely something I would like to pursue.
KING: It's a nice thing, isn't it, Claudia?
BARNES: Yes, sir.
KING: Good luck, Kiley.
K. BARNES: Thank you very much, Larry.
KING: Kiley Barnes. The panel will resume right after these words.
KING: Jim Voyles is the attorney for Deborah Teasley whose husband, Sergeant Hoyt Teasley, was shot in the courthouse.
JIM VOYLES, ATTORNEY: What role, Jim, do you play? Why does Deborah need a lawyer?
VOYLES: Well, we filed suit Wednesday in this case.
KING: This Wednesday?
VOYLES: This past Wednesday, yes. For wrongful death on behalf of Sergeant Teasley's estate, Deborah and her two minor daughters. And...
KING: Who are you suing?
VOYLES: We're suing the county, that is Fulton County. Fulton County Sheriff's Department, the sheriffs, and several of the deputies who were involved in the process of negligence.
KING: Are you saying -- had they done their job, this wouldn't have happened?
KING: So you feel that the people on duty there weren't protective enough?
VOYLES: We feel like it was absolutely one of the worst cases of trying to protect judges and the public that you'll ever, ever find. They had found shanks in Brian Nichols' shoes two days before. This was not taken seriously.
The sheriff's department allowed a very small woman, Cynthia Hall to escort Brian Nichols to the holding room where he changed clothes to go into the court. He is a large person, I think 6'2", built somewhat like a linebacker, and he beat her senseless.
And then instead of escaping, then he made his way to the judge's chamber. But the holding cell should have been monitored by video cameras. The deputies assigned to that were not on the video cameras. Or they would have seen his attack, and they would have stopped there.
And then the deputy that was supposed to be guarding Judge Barnes' chambers, courtroom, was not present that day. He had taken the day off, and he was not replaced with anyone.
We think all of this together is what caused the incident that ended up in the courthouse, killing three people, and then another person outside the courthouse.
KING: We contacted the sheriff and eight defendants to respond to the lawsuits filed against them by Claudia Barnes, Deborah Teasley and Candee Wilhelm. Only Chelsea Lee and Paul Tambers' attorneys provided statements.
Chelsea's statement says, in part, "Dramatic and horrific events come swiftly and have the power to destroy innocent lives that are in its path. Unfortunately, time to heal comes not to quickly. Former Captain Lee's prayers are with those victims' families and her former colleagues who are still scarred by this tragedy. Ms. Lee is painfully putting the pieces of her life back together but the actions of a mad man will be forever etched in her memory."
Mr. Tamer's statement says, "At the time of the shooting, Paul was in the central control office at all times. And once the panic alarm from Judge Barnes' chamber sounded, Paul attempted to call Judge Barnes' office to determine the validity of the alarm. The call was answered by Brian Nichols. Paul then asked him for the code, which Nichols was unable to provide. As a result, Paul then sounded for a code yellow. Previously in January 2005, Paul had written a memo to the Fulton County Sheriff's Office. The Service Division commander, saying that the policy of verifying panic alarms before responding was dangerous and would delay getting help to those in need."
Doug Kertscher, the attorney for Candee Wilhelm, how do you respond to that?
DOUG KERTSCHER, ATTORNEY: Well, Larry, it's clear. Regardless of how the facts come out, it's clear. And I think everyone agrees. And it sounds like even Deputy Tamer agrees, that this was a broken system that was poorly executed.
And as one of your guests tonight, Dennis Scheib, is going to say, a lot of people in Atlanta knew this courthouse was a catastrophe waiting to happen. And on March 11, the system fell apart, terribly. The execution was something like the Bad News Bears. And a catastrophe happened.
KING: And Tommy Malone, you're the attorney for Claudia Barnes, the judge's wife. Do you also share that view?
TOMMY MALONE, ATTORNEY: It was a culture of complacency. The total abdication of leadership by the sheriff of the policies, the clear rules and guidelines that were not in force that were designed to prevent this tragedy.
For example, it was mentioned about the panic alarms. The panic alarms were designed so that they could not be reset unless someone with a key went to the place where the panic alarm was set off. They had abandoned that practice and let all these alarms come into the control room, and they decided they'd pick up a telephone and call. And, of course, when they did in this case, Brian Nichols answered the phone.
KING: Deborah, do you believe your husband's death was preventable?
KING: You're totally in concept with this lawsuit? TEASLEY: Absolutely.
KING: Ashley, you don't work in the courthouse and you weren't involved. You were some distance away. Do you feel some merit in this?
SMITH: It's tough for me to accept that, through all of this, God has blessed my life because these women are suffering now deep pain, and I've felt that pain before. Four years ago I felt that same pain. So it's tough for me to accept sometimes. But that's what keeps me going more and more every day as I wake up and say, I've got a good life to lead. And I've been blessed with a second chance at my life. And so I must continue doing that."
KING: Are you bothered by the conditions at the courthouse?
SMITH: The conditions at the courthouse? What they're saying here?
KING: Well, had they been prevented, he wouldn't have seen you?
SMITH: That's correct, so yes.
KING: So you have to share that view then?
KING: We'll be right back with more on this one-year anniversary of a tragedy in Atlanta. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: 9:30 a.m., Nichols hijacks a number of vehicles in downtown Atlanta, including a tow truck, before pistol-whipping AJC newspaper reporter Don O'Briant and taking his 1997 green Honda Accord.
DON O'BRIANT: He pulls a gun and says, "Give me your keys," and I don't give them to him. He says, "Give me the keys or I'll kill you."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us in Atlanta is Don O'Briant on this one-year anniversary of that tragedy in that city. He's the former Atlanta Constitution reporter who was carjacked and beaten by Brian Nichols.
Where were that you morning, Don? What was happening?
O'BRIANT: Well, I had just pulled into the garage about two blocks from the newspaper when Brian Nichols pulled in beside me in an SUV and asked me for directions to Lenox Square Mall. And while I was giving him directions, he walked around behind my car, pulled a gun, and told me to give him my keys and tried to get me to get into the trunk. And when I refused, he hit me and knocked me to the concrete, broke my wrist, and I had 15 stitches above my eye after that. And I managed to escape.
KING: How did you find out who he was?
O'BRIANT: That was not until I talked to the police about 15 minutes later, and they said that this was the man who allegedly had killed three other people. And I'm not sure that would have made any difference. I don't think I would have been any more frightened if I had known that.
KING: Yes, but based on what he did, how do you explain to yourself that you're alive?
O'BRIANT: I'm just thankful that somebody -- a higher power -- interceded. And I don't know why I was spared when others weren't, but I'm grateful that I was, and I've tried to appreciate life a lot more since that day.
KING: What were the aftereffects? Have you had any?
O'BRIANT: Pardon me?
KING: Have you had aftereffects of the attack?
O'BRIANT: I had nightmares for about six weeks after that, and I did see a therapist. But I think I'm pretty well healed by now.
KING: You are at the courthouse, right?
O'BRIANT: I am.
KING: Has the situation there improved?
O'BRIANT: From what I understand, it hasn't improved drastically. I've heard some complaints from people who are still working there, that they don't feel secure.
KING: Has anyone on the paper covered it?
O'BRIANT: I haven't covered it. I was still covering the media at the time it happened.
KING: Do you feel like you were given a second life?
O'BRIANT: I do, and I have tried to make the best of it. I'm working on a couple of books, and I retired from the paper about four months ago because I realize that life is short, and I want to do the things I've always wanted to do.
KING: Good thinking. Thanks, Don.
How do you explain, Ashley, why he wasn't killed? You know the assailant.
ASHLEY SMITH: By the grace of God. Him, too. He was leaving there, probably every bit just as angry and frightened as he was when he came to my doorstep. So I would explain it by the grace of God again like that.
KING: Because you think certainly he would have killed you?
KING: Did you ever get to like him?
SMITH: Like him?
KING: You know that old - what do they call it -- the syndrome?
SMITH: No. No. Not at all. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that God let me see him through His eyes, through God's eyes that day, and that's what kept me -- or that night -- and that's what kept me from being completely frightened to where I couldn't even speak. But, as far as the syndrome, no. Not at all.
KING: Claudia, who do you, in your heart, blame for your husband's death? Is it named in this lawsuit? Is that who you blame?
CLAUDIA BARNES: Well, the deputies that didn't do their duties. They had responsibilities and policies to follow -- and I feel like there was a breakdown all the way from the jail, from the very beginning. So they're the ones I blame.
KING: Did he discuss this case with you?
BARNES: No, he didn't. That morning, I did find out he had a rape case going on. If he told me before, I don't remember.
He did say that it was the second time around on the trial and that it may carry over into the weekend or on Monday, which upset him somewhat because he was tired of the case, basically, and there was a lot of manipulation by the defendant. He told me that. And he didn't want to carry it into the next week because he had another calendar lined up.
KING: And, Tommy Malone, you feel that this was completely preventable?
TOMMY MALONE, ATTORNEY: Absolutely preventable. Brian Nichols' mother had reported to her preacher that Brian was going to take somebody's pistol away from - somebody's firearm away from them and do grievous harm.
That inspecific threat was not communicated to the proper authorities, even though many knew but they didn't do anything to act on that specific threat. And they took shanks out of his shoes - weapons out of his shoes - and they knew that, and the policies would have required a shakedown. It would have required the SWAT team to escort this prisoner back and forth to the courtroom.
They just didn't do any of the things that they should have done. The law and the policies of the sheriff's department require a sheriff's deputy or the sheriff himself to be present in the courtroom whenever the judge is on the bench. There were three deputies that were supposed to be in that courtroom, and they knew that he was subject to acting out. Not one deputy was in the courtroom when the shooting occurred, in clear violation of the law and the policies of the sheriff's department, and this lawsuit...
KING: Can you boil it - I'm sorry, go ahead.
MALONE: ... The lawsuit is about getting the attention of the people responsible to do away with this culture of complacency.
KING: Jim, are you thinking of joining all the suits?
JIM VOYLES, ATTORNEY FOR DEBORAH TEASLEY: Well, I don't know. That would be up to the judge, but there are certain differences in the lawsuits. Some of the questions are who the victims actually worked for, and we have some different issues about the events that occurred. The judge could join them all together.
KING: Doug Kertscher and Charlotte, do you think he might - or she might?
DOUG KERTSCHER, ATTORNEY FOR CANDEE WILHELM: Sure, there are certain efficiencies by that, but I want to go back to a point that Don made earlier.
These lawsuits are about change, Larry. A lot of the recommended changes that were recommended by the multiple investigations that understandably occurred after this incident have not been put in place as we sit here today. And there are a lot of people who still think that is a dangerous courthouse, and so these lawsuits, as Tommy puts it, are about getting attention and making a change and trying to bring some justice to the families.
KING: We'll be right back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE on this one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Atlanta. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN KOCH, REPORTER: In this working-class neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, Brian Nichols was someone to look up to. He played sports and graduated from a local Catholic school, Cardinal Gibbons High School. He played football at Cliffstown University in Pennsylvania.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a athlete -- basketball, football, martial arts -- but never, never someone who used the martial arts on a negative note.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian was a nice young man, as far as we knew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. We did receive a statement from Brian Nichols' parents, Claritha and Gene Nichols, about the March 11th shootings. It says, in part, "My husband Gene and I are struggling with nearly overwhelming emotions as March 11th approaches. We love our son. We're horrified by the devastation visited upon these families."
The statement goes on, "If we had words that we thought could provide calm, we would share them. Instead, we offer our love, our wounded hearts and spirits, and our prayers that the peace of the Lord restore their souls and our souls and that we get stronger and healthier each passing day."
How do you react to that, Deborah?
DEBORAH TEASLEY: I mean, I can understand how they feel because I have children of my own. So you don't - and, you know, that's the world's worst thing - that you raise your children right, and then they do something so horrific.
So, you know, like them, I'm trying to get stronger, but sometimes it's really hard.
KING: Mixed emotions?
KING: You can understand, your child commits a crime, it's still your child.
KING: How do you feel, Candee, over that statement?
CANDEE WILHELM: Well, I try to stay positive, and I try to have a good outlook, but, you know, I feel like they don't really know what wounds are, quite honestly.
KING: Claudia, how do you feel?
BARNES: I'm devastated. My heart is just totally broken. And my heart goes out to them as parents because it's true that you can only raise them to be what you hope they will be. And if they turn out different, that's not their fault.
I admire for them for going and sitting with him, just to be there for him, for support. But on the other hand, he needs to stand up and take responsibility for his actions, which is what Roland and I had always stressed in our lives -- is if you thought it was good enough to do it, you need to not whine about it and go ahead and take responsibility for your actions.
KING: Where does he stand now -- Mr. Nichols?
BARNES: We have some motions pending that are coming up, I think, March 27. There are six motions involved. And the trial would be, so far, scheduled for October 3rd, but that probably -- with all the motions and the way it's been going so far, it will probably be later than that.
KING: Is he is the county jail?
KING: Ashley, how do you feel about him?
SMITH: About Brian Nichols? I feel grateful that he allowed me to leave so I could live my life with my daughter and my family. And I feel the same as them, you know? And I told him that, that night, that he needed to pay for what he had done. And I still stick by that. He does need to pay for what he did.
KING: Claudia, did you have any suspicions or questions about Ashley?
BARNES: Did I have any suspicions?
BARNES: I was on the fence with her story. But I did get to meet with her and talk to her, and we met for a good long while, and we talked about a lot of things. So we came to the understanding that unless something else changed for something drastic that I didn't know about, I did believe her story.
KING: What were you on the fence about?
BARNES: Whether or not she knew him beforehand or if she had actually taken part in his escape or had provided shelter for him, knowing that he was on the run. And I explained this to her when we met.
KING: In other words, because it was hard to believe that he spent all those hours with her?
BARNES: Well, it wasn't -- it was not your normal real situation without having questions. You know, from a -- I guess a police standpoint or a deputy's standpoint, if you want to put it that way -- an investigation, you would feel like you smelled a rat somewhere.
So, you know, you just felt like you were on the fence because you didn't really know. You want to believe her, but you weren't sure that you could.
SMITH: Yes, we did get to meet for a few hours, and she told me that. And as anyone else, I mean, the position I was in at the time, I was completely honest about everything, even things I didn't have to be honest about, just to prove to them that this was the real deal. I mean, it is a hard story to believe. But it's all by the grace of God.
KING: How did you get out, Ashley, to call 911? SMITH: He just allowed me to leave. I told him that I had to go see my daughter the next morning. He wasn't going to let me at first. But as the night went on, about 8:30, he said, "What time do you need to leave?" I left a few minutes later.
KING: You did give him a drug, though, didn't you?
SMITH: Yes, I did.
KING: Did that help?
SMITH: Did it help?
SMITH: I don't...
KING: Did you give him methamphetamine?
SMITH: Yes. Under normal circumstances, I think meth makes people very, very hyper. Under these circumstances, he was very, very mellowed out. So I believe that God used not the drug, but He reversed the effect on him that night.
KING: We'll be right back with more on this incredible tale. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: 9:50 a.m. Saturday, seven hours after taking a woman hostage, Nichols lets her go. She quickly calls 911.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: She was able to get out of the apartment and call us. We were -- we activated our SWAT team.
REPORTER: Nichols waves a white T-shirt outside the apartment window and surrenders to police. As he's taken away, there is celebration mixed with relief. The manhunt that began 26 hours earlier is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now from Atlanta is Dennis Scheib, the Atlanta courthouse hostage, author of -- he was not a hostage. He was walking by Judge Barnes' chambers at the same time that Nichols was in there taking the judge's staff hostage.
What did you hear, and what did you see, Dennis?
DENNIS SCHEIB, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I had just gotten off the elevator and went down to another judge about two minutes before 9. Actually, they were in the back, and I didn't see or didn't hear anything. I went to the judge down the corridor, Judge Brogden (ph), and probably two minutes after entering the courtroom, a deputy came running in there with a gun out and indicated that there was some trouble, there had been a shooting, and told us to stay in the courtroom.
Then he came back about 20 minutes later, 15 minutes later, and said Judge Barnes had been shot. By that time we had used the computer, and one of the other lawyers had pulled it up on the Internet, and -- the shooting - and then we found out some minutes later that Judge Barnes was dead.
KING: You were his friend for 18 years?
SCHEIB: I've known him -- when I first started practicing, '87, met him on a domestic case, and we became friends.
He was a very funny man. I'd go see him all the time, and we'd talk about different things, and I'd see him and Claudia walking down the street holding hands. And Kiley, actually, his daughter, worked for me for a period of six months.
KING: How did they get you out of the courthouse?
SCHEIB: They ordered us at one point, after about 30 minutes or so, to go down a certain way and go out. We attempted to go out, and then they told us no, you have to go around another way. They really had no plan. And we eventually -- they let us out on the Martin Luther King Central side.
KING: You were a police officer, too, right?
SCHEIB: For 13 years -- deputy sheriff in Orlando and an Atlanta officer for eight years.
KING: What observations did you make about the police handling of this?
SCHEIB: Well, the deputies in Fulton County are real good deputies. I mean, they're very professional. The problem is, there's not enough deputies to go ahead and deal with the whole courtroom. Still there are not enough deputies.
I wrote a letter two years ago -- well, three years ago now -- and indicated that the policies, and what they were doing in there, was very, very unsafe. A tragedy was going to happen.
I happened to actually write it on Deputy Hall, the one that was involved in this. She went into a jail cell with a gun. I pulled her out when I was back there in the cell area. She went in -- there was eight, nine inmates in there -- and she walked in with a gun, and I pulled her out said, "You never walk into a cell with a gun on. You just don't do that."
She was involved in this scenario, and since then, I have spoken with the sheriff, Major Johnson, in the last some months, and some of the deputies are really upset with me. The deputies are great people there. They need more deputies. They don't have enough. They don't have updated training.
They do not know control techniques, which is how you control people that get unruly and what you do. In the back of a cell area, I've observed at least six different occasions where they still -- it's one on one.
I had a client back there, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, 260, handcuffed to another man -- one small female deputy. And I was back there to make sure there wasn't a problem, because I have a great love for these deputies. I've known some of them 25 years.
But it's just -- they do not get the support from the County Commission, from the sheriff, and they have -- a major that is in charge there, and he pulled me up in his office a month ago, six weeks ago, and had a conversation because he heard that I was upset with the security there.
All of these things I wrote, one of the -- Judge Bedford an affidavit, that I've seen security breaches. It started in the back cell area. They are doing all these cosmetic things, which is fine, and they even search -- when I come in the courthouse now, they search me and make me pull up my boots and all this other stuff.
Well, in the history of the legal system, lawyers don't cause problems. It's defendants and defendants' families -- and they're not focusing. And I was interviewed today, and I stand by my statement. It is not safe in that courthouse.
They have not changed the things they need to do -- until somebody jacks up the sheriff or Major Johnson. They need control techniques. They need to be able to control what happens back there in the jail cells -- not have one deputy deal with one person or multiple people now. It's still not safe.
You know, the judges...
KING: Do these people...
SCHEIB: ... the judges and the people are under some type of mysterious little thing thinking, well, it's safe because we change locks, and we add doors, and we can have cameras.
I could go in there with a couple of my little -- I have a judo school, been in judo martial arts and trained in Japan with the Japanese for years. I could go in there with a couple little students and just show them where they do not do what they should be doing. Security is terrible for what they need to do.
KING: Thank you, Dennis. Well said. Dennis Scheib.
We'll be back with our remaining moments and a thought from each of our panelists. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Claudia, do you think we'll ever have resolution?
BARNES: No, sir, I don't. I mean, I'm hoping -- let's look at it this way. If it gets just life in prison, there's always a chance of escape. There's never closure for any one of us. The rape victim will always look over her shoulder, as I suppose everybody in Atlanta will or across the world.
But if he's given the death penalty, of course, he will be on death row, and that may be an indefinite period of time as well. So I don't know, unless a person is given the death penalty and actually put to death, which is the punishment for this type of crime, then nobody would get resolution in this.
KING: Do you, Deborah, expect resolution?
You may get legal resolution.
TEASLEY: Yes, that's about it - legal resolution - because even if a person gets the death penalty, there are years and years and years before they're actually put to death.
KING: And nothing is going to bring your husband back.
TEASLEY: Absolutely not.
KING: Candee, you think you're going to get resolution?
WILHELM: No, there will never be resolution. We might get justice, and that's what we pray for, but nobody is going to be able to bring my Superman back. You know, I'm left with wearing his wedding band and his chain around my neck. Nobody can understand what that's like, except all of us.
KING: You're damn right.
Thank you all very much. One year ago today - mayhem in Atlanta.
Thank you very much for this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned now for news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. Good night.
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