ATLANTA -- Nervous workers and visitors lined up yesterday as the Fulton County Courthouse reopened under heightened security following the slayings of a judge, deputy, and court reporter three days earlier.
As the courthouse reopened at 8:30 a.m., 72 hours after the shootings, at least 80 people waited in line to get past a security checkpoint set up inside the building. The line snaked down a hallway near the entrance.
No jurors will be called to the courthouse this week, said Erik Friedly, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.
With no jurors present, deputies will be able to transport inmates into courtrooms with handcuffs or any other restraints. The law requires that defendants on trial not be handcuffed as they enter the courtroom, to make sure the jury is not unfairly influenced.
The suspected gunman, Brian Nichols, was taken into custody Saturday morning after allegedly holding a woman hostage for several hours, then freeing her. The woman, Ashley Smith, came forward Sunday to give an account of her ordeal, saying he let her go after they bonded while discussing God, family, pancakes, and the massive manhunt.
Authorities said the rampage started when Nichols overpowered a sheriff's deputy who was transporting Nichols for the resumption of his trial on rape and other charges.
Officials declared a mistrial in the rape case yesterday, and federal officials dropped a firearms charge that was used to keep Nichols in custody while officials discussed charges in the slayings. Nichols could appear in court as early as today, authorities said.
Convicted felon Richard Jadwin, 20, who was at the courthouse to check in with the sheriff's department, said he felt uncomfortable being in the building.
''I ain't even going to lie; I'm kind of nervous," said Jadwin, who wouldn't say what crime he was convicted of.
Those who stepped off the elevators in front of the courtroom of Judge Rowland Barnes saw crime scene tape and flowers where Barnes and his court reporter, Julie Brandau, were killed. Both had been working on Nichols's trial. Sheriff's Sergeant Hoyt Teasley was killed outside the courthouse, and David Wilhelm, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was killed later.
Smith was hailed as a hero for the way she handled herself after Nichols confronted her in the parking lot of her apartment when she returned from a store around 2 a.m. Saturday.
Over the course of the night, Nichols untied Smith, and some of the fear lessened as they talked. Nichols told Smith he felt like ''he was already dead," but Smith urged him to consider the fact that he was still alive a ''miracle."
''I believe God brought him to my door," Smith said Sunday.
''You're here in my apartment for some reason," she told him, saying he might be destined to be caught and to spread the word of God to fellow prisoners.
Choking back tears Sunday, she said she told Nichols that her husband died four years ago and that if he hurt her, her little girl wouldn't have a mother or father. Smith's lawyer, Josh Archer, said her husband died in her arms after being stabbed. Smith's 5-year-old daughter was not at the apartment during the ordeal.
The two talked about the Bible, and she handed him photos of her family. When morning came, Smith said, Nichols was ''overwhelmed" when she made him pancakes with real butter.When Nichols finally let Smith go to a planned meeting with her daughter, he said he wanted to stay at the apartment a few more days. But she thought he knew she was going to call 911, she said. He surrendered to police.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday that a courthouse surveillance camera recorded Nichols's surprise attack on Deputy Cynthia Hall but that no one in the control center noticed the assault.
A camera that is supposed to be monitored by two guards in a command post shows Nichols lunging at Hall and knocking her backward, according to a law enforcement official who saw the tape.