Decision to Seek the Death Penalty in One Case Costs Georgia More Than $3 Million

There never was any question that Brian Nichols was guilty of the courthouse shooting of a judge and three other victims in 2005.  He had offered to plead guilty if the death penalty was not pursued, but the state insisted on a full death penalty trial that ended up being the most expensive capital case in Georgia's history.  In 2008, the case concluded with Nichols being sentenced to life without parole.  Recently, the defense costs were revealed to be more than $3 million, with the state paying $2.3 million, and Fulton County paying about $625,000.  The costs of the prosecution and other trial-related expenses have not been revealed, though state officials estimated it cost an additional $300,000 for state-supplied staff and other expenses.

Lead defense attorney Henderson Hill said that funds were needed to investigate Nichols' wide-ranging background and mental health issues.  These facts would be crucial in countering the state's case for the death penalty. Among the defense costs was $463,000 for mental health experts, investigators and a trial consultant to help the defense. Fulton County said it paid another $125,000 for mental health costs.

(R. Cook & S. Visser, "Murderer Nichols' tab: $3 million and growing," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 22, 2009).  See Costs and Sentencing.