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No decision on courthouse killer penalty

ATLANTA, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- An Atlanta jury said Thursday its members were divided on whether Brian Nichols should receive a death sentence for a courthouse killing spree.

Superior Court Judge James Bodiford asked jurors to continue deliberating, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The jury said it was divided 6-3 but not which side had the majority.

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If the jury is unable to reach a decision, Nichols would receive an automatic sentence of life with no parole.

Nichols was on trial for rape in 2005 when he grabbed a gun and killed Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau and Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley. After escaping from the courthouse, he gunned down U.S Customs Special Agent David Wilhelm to get his car.

The legal proceedings have been drawn out and expensive, delayed at one point because defense lawyers said that they had not been given the funding to do their job.

Deliberations were to resume Friday morning.

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