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Education and employment
Barnes attended Frankfurt High School in Germany and he 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 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 take her gun. He then went to the courtroom and shot to death Judge Barnes, his court reporter, and later a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent. Nichols was taken into custody at an apartment complex in Duluth, Georgia, the next day.