Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Another Myth Bites the Dust

Anyone remember the Atlanta courthouse shootings last March, when a felon named Brian Nichols shot and killed a judge, stole a car and fled the courthouse, leading to a big manhunt? If you do, I’m sure you can’t possibly forget Ashley Smith, the woman who was on every single network simultaneously telling the story of how she talked Nichols into turning himself in by talking to him about her faith in God. On every network, she tearfully told the story of how she pulled out a copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, a bestselling bit of Christian motivational tripe, and talked to him about God and that’s why he released her, allowing her to call the police and tell them where the fugitive was.

Well, it turns out that was just a small part of the story. In her new book – you knew she’d have a book, didn’t you? – she reveals that while she did read to him about God, she also dug into her personal stash of drugs and gave him some crystal meth. Probably the good stuff that she was saving for a special occasion. I wonder if that will make it into the script of the inevitable made-for-TV movie.

Comments

  1. #1 David Mazel
    September 29, 2005

    Jesus AND crystal meth–TWO drugs?

  2. #2 Lynn
    September 29, 2005

    Ed, I’ve been following her story closely. She says when he asked her to join him in taking the ice she refused and believed this was her real turning point in giving up the drug.

    Shortly after Nichols allowed her to leave and even asked her if he could do any work around her apartment for her, she asked him to hang a mirror and the curtains. He asked her to come visit him in prison as he considered her a friend.

    To my undersanding she has said repeadedly that she has no intentions of visiting him.

    After admitting in her book of giving him drugs and having possession of them, has she been charged with those crimes? If the answer is no, then why not?

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    September 29, 2005

    Lynn wrote:

    After admitting in her book of giving him drugs and having possession of them, has she been charged with those crimes? If the answer is no, then why not?

    The article I linked to above said that the authorities have decided not to arrest her, I suspect just because they don’t want to draw any more attention to the incident, which was quite an embarrassment to them due to the lax security.

  4. #4 Dave L
    September 29, 2005

    Hmmm, I’m confused on what grounds they could arrest her, or at least how they think they could have a case against her. Would it require getting Nichols to testify against her? Does her writing about it in a book make it admissable as evidence, as it seems like it’s akin to forcing someone to testify against themself?

    It just seems like there’s plenty of other biographies out there where people admit possessing and doing drugs; they can be prosecuted for just admitting it? I understand they could be investigated, but I guess I just don’t see how they could prosecute successfully.

  5. #5 Dan
    September 29, 2005

    Does her writing about it in a book make it admissable as evidence, as it seems like it’s akin to forcing someone to testify against themself?

    Yes, it comes in as an admission against penal interest, which is an exception to the hearsay rule. It isn’t forcing her to testify against herself. She made the statement(s) voluntarily, in a non-custodial setting. This is what Miranda speaks to with the familiar warning that “anything you say can and will be used against you…” Were the state to prosecute (which it won’t, for the reason Ed pointed out above, and because they don’t want to be seen trying to take down the heroine of the situation), she couldn’t be compelled to take the stand, but the prosecutor could have a field day with the book.

  6. #6 Dave L
    September 29, 2005

    Wow Dan, I find that surprising. I thought Miranda only really applied from the point you were arrested. Does the fact that she wrote it down differ from if she had just told it to a friend?

    Regardless, it doesn’t seem like the prosecutor would have much of a case if he just had what was written in the book to go on. If I wrote an autobiography and mentioned that I bought and smoked pot when I was in college at MSU, I don’t believe I’m under any requirement legally to tell the truth in my book. Seems like the prosecutor would look like an idiot charging me with possession in that case when they don’t have the drugs as evidence and can’t even say what quantity I had. But then again, it just matters what a jury believes, so maybe the prosecutor does have a better case than I would think/hope.

  7. #7 Dan
    September 29, 2005

    I thought Miranda only really applied from the point you were arrested. Does the fact that she wrote it down differ from if she had just told it to a friend?

    You are correct that Miranda only applies to custodial interrogations. I mentioned that language simply to illustrate that admissions you make can be used against you so long as they aren’t made in a custodial setting where Miranda applies but the required warnings haven’t been given. That’s also why a good attorney will tell you not to say anything to anyone about the facts and circumstances of an alleged offense — its all fair game.

    No, it doesn’t matter whether she wrote it down, told it to a friend, or announced it in an interview. For that matter, it wouldn’t matter if she had been arrested and confessed to a cell-mate (again, assuming no custodial interrogation issues — which invariably arise with such “jailhouse informant” testimony). What matters is that it is an admission against interest that was made in a non-custodial setting.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.