Television crews will be allowed to broadcast the murder trial of a rape defendant accused of killing four people in an escape from a downtown Atlanta courthouse, a judge ruled Thursday.

The defense had requested a ban, saying the cameras' presence would damage Brian Nichols' right to a fair trial. They said some witnesses were reluctant to testify because of the media coverage.

Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller disagreed and sided with the media in ruling that video and still cameras and recording equipment will be allowed, though he said he could still limit broadcasts if circumstances warrant that.

The trial is scheduled to start Jan. 11. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Nichols has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, carjacking, escape and other offenses.

Prosecutors say he grabbed a deputy's gun on March 11, 2005, at the Fulton County Courthouse, where he was being retried on rape charges, and killed a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and then a federal agent he encountered a few miles away.

Nichols was also accused of taking a woman hostage in her suburban Atlanta apartment. He surrendered the next day.