In an interview with theGrio, public defender Kevin Gough said despite the guilty verdict De’Marquise Elkins, 18, did not receive a fair trial because evidence he tried to present was blocked.
He also said from the onset he was concerned there were no black males in the pool of 48 potential jurors which was critical to his client receiving a fair trial.
In the end an all-white jury (nine men and three women) were selected from the prospective jurors. They deliberated for less than two hours before returning a verdict of guilty on all counts against Elkins, who was 17 at the time of the shooting.
After the verdict an African-American female alternate juror told reporters she wished she had been in the room with the other jurors so they could hear her opinion.
“If you were a 17-year-old black man from Brunswick, Georgia, raised to believe that the Constitution guarantees the accused a trial by a jury of his peers, and twelve white folks showed up to try your case, you would not be pleased either,” said defense attorney Gough.
“To put it somewhat differently, if you were a white man (perhaps a police officer) accused of shooting a black baby in the face without provocation, how would you feel about the selection of twelve black folks to try your case?”
Though, during the trial which attracted national attention, Sherry West, the mother of slain toddler Antonio Santiago, identified Elkins as the teen who shot her baby at point-blank range while he was sitting in his stroller. Her version of events was backed up by testimony from Elkins’ accomplice, Dominique Lang, 15, who said that the older teen pulled the trigger.
Danielle Williams, Elkins’ distant cousin and family friend, testified that the teen came to her apartment the day after the shooting and asked if he could hide a gun under a loveseat. Later that day, Elkins’ mother and sister came to the apartment and left with the gun, Williams said.
Still, the case was full of conflicting testimonies and unexpected contradictions, including explosive testimony from West’s adult daughter, Ashley Glassey. The 21-year-old said that after speaking to her mom (who has a history of mental health illness) she believed she had something to do with her brother’s death.
West and Louis Santiago also tested positive for gunshot residue on the day their son was killed, according to the state’s forensic report.
Two women, formerly married to Santiago, testified without the jury present that he was mentally and physically abusive and they believed he had something to do with the death of his son.
There were also conflicting testimonies from Santiago and the Rev. Wright Culpepper, a hospital chaplain, who witnessed Santiago’s interaction with West when he visited her in hospital.
“I still don’t have closure,” said Rev. Kenneth Adkins, the pastor of a prominent church in Brunswick, who traveled to Marietta to attend the two week long trial. “There was testimony that I thought was important that the jury wasn’t allowed to hear.”
“I was very uncomfortable with the racial makeup of the jury. It was impossible for him to get a fair trial.”
The polarizing case once again puts the spotlight on race relations in America, the racial composition of jurors and reignited the debate over whether the demographics of jurors can skew a verdict.
It comes hot on the heels of the George Zimmerman acquittal, where an all-female jury (five white women and one Hispanic woman) cleared him of second-degree murder. Following the verdict commentators debated about the jury not being representative.
“Jurors do not check their common sense at the courthouse door,” said Gough. “Neither do they check their life experiences. The sad fact remains, even today, that while black and white America share the same geography they still live in very different worlds.”
“You can’t know Marky Elkins, or understand him, or this generation of disgruntled youth (for he is not alone), without taking time to see the world through their eyes.”
TheGrio contacted Judge Kelley, who presided over the trial, but he was unavailable for comment.
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