Baby Shooter Convicted of Murder
MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) - It took a Georgia jury less than two hours of deliberation Friday to convict 18-year-old De'Marquise Elkins of shooting a baby to death in a stroller.
Elkins was convicted of all 11 counts against him, including felony murder and murder with malice.
He shot 13-month-old Antonio Santiago in the face after the baby's mother, Sherry West, refused to give up her purse.
Elkins also was convicted of felony assault, for shooting West in the leg and pistol whipping her.
The mandatory sentence for murder with malice is life without parole.
Elkins cannot be sentenced to death because he was 17 when he killed the baby, on March 21.
Elkins' mother, Karma Elkins, who was tried with him, was convicted of tampering with evidence - throwing the murder weapon into a swamp - but acquitted of lying to police.
Glynn County Judge Stephen Kelley refused public defender Kevin Gough's request for De'Marquise Elkins to be freed on bond during appeal.
In closing arguments Friday, public defender Jonathan Lockwood told jurors the prosecution had built its foundation with dubious witnesses such as Argie Brooks, who was the first to offer De'Marquise Elkins as a suspect to police.
"Argie Brooks came up slobbering to a police officer hours after the murder, asking for money for crack cocaine," Lockwood said. "He can get his girlfriend high in order to get the right name of the suspect. He might have been on drugs. He identified a man named Dominique Elkins, not Dominique Lang, not De'Marquise Elkins."
Dominique Lang, 15, also is charged with murder. He will be tried separately.
Lang testified during Elkins' trial that he was with Elkins when the crimes began. He said he ran away and heard, but did not see, the shot that killed the baby.
Argie Brooks is the boyfriend of Lang's aunt, Debra Obley. Elkins' attorneys argued that Obley colluded with Brooks to give police names of suspects for the reward money.
Obley called police and told them her nephew, Lang, and De'Marquise Elkins were involved in the murder.
Lockwood told the jury: "You have a crack head, a drunk, or both, who lied. Then they go find Dominique Lang, and we all know how that turned out."
Lockwood said that Lang admitted in his trial testimony that he had lied more than 17 times about whether Elkins was the shooter.
In closing, Lockwood said that prosecutors "are going to come back with the horrible picture of that dead baby, and they are going to say, 'We have a dead baby,' again and again and again."
"Look past the dead baby and look at the facts in the case. It's not going to be fun. It's going to be difficult. It's going to be hard. But when you look at the evidence, look at the character of the witnesses. Police won't look at obvious facts, and you have a duty to find De'Marquise not guilty."
In her closing argument, Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson reminded the jury that West, the baby's mother, accurately described the silver necklace Elkins was wearing that day, that Elkins was photographed wearing the necklace on a surveillance video, and that police found it in his belongings.
Elkins had two .22 caliber bullets in his pocket when he was arrested - the same caliber bullet that killed Antonio and wounded West.
Lang told police, and testified at trial, that he had never met Elkins before that day, and that during a chance meeting before the murder, Elkins had told him he had a gun and wanted "to kill Mexicans."
But Johnson reminded the jury that a videotape showed Elkins and Lang passing one another on the sidewalk of a public housing complex shortly before the murder, and that that and other videos showed Elkins near the scene of the crime, hours after the murder.
"Video doesn't lie," Johnson said. "This is about evidence, not about theories of what might have happened or what could have happened. It's all here on the surveillance videotape. We don't have an actual video of the shooting of Antonio Santiago but we can pretty well tell what happened from what we do have."
After the verdict was announced, Glynn County Public Defender Kevin Gough said he would appeal.
"Marky Elkins and his family are confident that he will receive another trial in which he will be able to present fully his defense," Gough said. "Mr. Elkins will eventually be exonerated.
"We filed numerous Brady motions demanding that the state turn over exculpatory evidence. Time will tell whether, as the Elkins family believes, the state withheld evidence that would have led to a very different verdict."
Gough protested, as he did from the beginning of trial, that there were no black men among the 48 people in the jury pool.
"If you were a 17-year-old black man with a right to a trial with a jury of your peers and 12 white people showed up for his trial, you'd be concerned, too."
The three alternate jurors were black women.
After the jury delivered its verdict and was dismissed, attorneys argued before Judge Kelley whether Karimah Elkins should be tried on the 13th count of the original indictment - possession of a firearm by a felon.