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Education and employment
Barnes began his academic career at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1962. He later studied business and then law at The George Washington University and then graduated from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1972, and at the time of his death still held the title of adjunct professor at Emory. Barnes had served as a city judge and as a magistrate before his appointment by Governor Zell Miller to Fulton Superior Court in 1998.
Barnes was shot and killed on March 11, 2005, in his courtroom by Brian Nichols who was convicted for the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. Nichols attacked a sheriff's deputy and was able to access her gun. He went to the courtroom and shot Judge Barnes and his court reporter. Nichols was taken into custody at an apartment complex in Duluth, Georgia, the next day.