Appeals court dismisses widow's suit in courthouse shooting case

Candee Wilhelm had filed suit against six Fulton County deputies, alleging their failure to prevent Nichols' escape from custody on March 11, 2005, contributed to the death of her husband. Hours after he killed a judge, court reporter and a deputy during his escape, Nichols traveled to Buckhead, where he killed U.S. Immigration and Customs agent David Wilhelm, who was working on his new home. Nichols is now serving life in prison without parole.

Judge Sara Doyle, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, noted that Wilhelm's killing occurred at his home about six miles from the courthouse and several hours after Nichols had escaped. Nichols' violence against the judge and his staff was foreseeable because it occurred within the courthouse where deputies had been warned Nichols would attempt to escape, Doyle wrote.

"Here, [the deputies] were warned that Nichols would attempt to violently escape, not that he would thereafter commit a crime later in the day in a different part of the city," Doyle wrote in a decision released May 27.

Norcross attorney Bill Mitchell, who represents two of the Fulton deputies, said he was pleased with the ruling. "Although these circumstances are certainly tragic, Georgia law does not permit recovery under these facts," he said.

A prior lawsuit filed by Judge Rowland Barnes' widow, Claudia Barnes, was settled for $5.2 million. The family of slain court reporter Julie Ann Brandau settled its claims for $5 million.

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