Elaine Reyes Reports | Deputy May Sue
ATLANTA, GA -- Hundreds of courthouse employees in Fulton County gathered Friday at a memorial service to remember co-workers killed there nearly one year ago.
The service that took place inside the Fulton County Government Center on Pryor Street at 9 a.m. drew nearly 400 people together in prayer and song.
"We're very mindful of what happened a year ago. We'll never forget that," said Chief Judge Doris Downs, who planned to hold the observance of healing. "We're going to move forward with them in mind so that nothing like this can ever happen again in this courthouse."
An Atlanta artist who was so moved by the events of the March 11 shootings painted portraits of the victims and donated them. Hoeun Chung's portraits will be displayed in a memorial garden at the Fulton County courthouse.
Family members of the victims also attended the service. "This is very overwhelming, just let's you know how the community feels about this tragic event," said Claudia Barnes, the widow of Judge Barnes. "I hope all these events and the ceremonies that we have, I hope it will bring a healing."
Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman, who has come under fire for the court security at the time of the killings, attended but did not comment to the media after the service. John Gates, the Fulton County Superior Court Administrator, said, "We come closer together as a result of what's happened. It's an opportunity to reflect on the past year."
The memorial service ended within an hour's time with the courthouse choir singing, "Lean on me."
Brian Nichols, the rape defendant charged in the courthouse killings, will face a death penalty trial in October. His attorneys lost a motion to have the trial moved out of the courthouse where Nichols is accused of killing three people in a time span of 12 minutes. He is also charged in the death later that night of U.S. Customs Agent David Wilhelm in Buckhead where Wilhelm was building a house.
Nichols surrendered to authorities on March 12, after holding a single mother, Ashley Smith, hostage overnight inside her Gwinnett County apartment. Smith convinced Nichols to let her go visit her daughter and called police after emerging from her home.