Arduous, Contentious Day|in Baby Murder Trial

     MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) – The adult daughter of the woman whose baby was shot to death in a stroller testified Wednesday that her mom’s comments after the shooting didn’t “settle well” with her.
     Ashley Glassey, Sherry West’s 21-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, told the jury that her mother telephoned her the night her half-brother was killed. Sobbing, Glassey testified: “She asked me how long I thought it would take to get the life insurance policy check on my brother.”
     Glassey was the first witness for the defense, which began presenting its case Wednesday, the eighth day of the trial.
     De’Marquise Elkins, now 18, is being tried for the felony murder of Antonio Santiago, who was 13 months old when he was shot on March 21.
     The baby’s mother, Sherry West, also was shot, as she pushed her baby in a stroller home from the post office.
     Elkins also is accused of trying to rob West, who testified Tuesday that Elkins demanded her purse, shot her in the leg, hit her in the head with a pistol, then shot her baby in the face.
     Elkins’ mother, Karimah Elkins, is being tried with her son, charged with obstructing justice by throwing the gun into a marsh and lying to police.
     If convicted, De’Marquise Elkins faces up to life in prison. He cannot be sentenced to death because he was 17 when the crime was committed.
     In her testimony Tuesday, West told jurors she bought a Gerber Life Insurance policy for $5,000 for her infant son and used $1,200 of the proceeds to pay for his funeral and cremation. She said she used the rest for moving expenses, as she didn’t feel safe in her apartment after the shooting.
     West, sitting in the courtroom gallery, stared at her daughter as Glassey testified Wednesday, visibly nervous and upset.
     Glassey told jurors that her parents had divorced when she was 8 and her father got custody of her. She said she had not seen her mother in more than 4 years.
     Glassey said her mother called her in New Jersey a few hours after baby Antonio was killed.
     “She told me about Antonio’s death,” Glassey said through sobs. “I told her about my father’s death a few months earlier, and she played the grieving part when I told her.
     “First she told me that two kids came up to her and asked her for her money. She said one kid shot Antonio and then shot her.
     “Then she changed the story. It was a very vague statement. Then she said she was shot first and Antonio second.”
     Glassey said she told her mom she wanted to go to Georgia for the funeral but her mother didn’t want her there.
     “She got upset and said, ‘No, you are not coming down here, it’s not safe. No, no, no,'” Glassey testified.
     “She said she worried that someone would hurt me. She told me, ‘Someone hurt Sean, someone hurt Antonio. I don’t want someone hurting you.'”
     West testified on Tuesday that her son from a previous marriage, Shaun Glassey, was murdered in 2008.
     Defense attorney Kevin Gough asked Glassey: “After the phone call, did you have trouble sleeping that night?”
     “The whole conversation didn’t settle well with me,” Glassey replied. “My mind was racing all night about the conversation I had with her.”
     The morning after the killing, Glassey said, she telephoned the Brunswick Police Department to speak to someone about her concerns.
     “What I said to them was that I had a conversation with my mom and some of the things she told me did not add up and I need to talk to a detective on the case. I didn’t get to speak to anyone but I left my name and said I was Sherry’s daughter and I wanted to talk about the details of the case,” Glassey said.
     “I felt like I got blown off, because I didn’t receive a phone call back, so that’s when I started talking to the media.”
     Glassey said police investigators did not return her call until she had been interviewed by several media outlets about the phone call from her mother.
     She said her mother called her a second time, and it was not a pleasant conversation.
     “She was very, very, mad at me,” Glassey said. “She told me I had no business talking to the news, and then she told me, ‘Absolutely do not talk to anyone until after the trial.’
     “She stopped talking to me. She yelled at me and that is the last time we talked.”
     Glassey broke into tears repeatedly during her testimony. She received permission to travel to Georgia from New Jersey, where she was in custody for misdemeanor shoplifting charges.
     Glassey’s brief 10 minutes of testimony contrasted with the arduous and vigorous arguments over the relevancy of allegedly exculpatory evidence the defense wants to present for De’Marquise Elkins. That evidence concerns West and baby Antonio’s father, Louis Santiago.
     Before Glassey testified Wednesday, Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley ruled on prosecutors’ motion to bar testimony from Glassey about her mother’s alleged abusive behavior, drug use and neglect of Glassey and her brother Shaun when they were children.
     Special Prosecutor Andrew Ekonomou also asked that, after four hours of cross-examination of West on Tuesday, the judge should stop the cross-examination and determine “where this case is going.”
     Ekonomou said that Gough “has asked and asked the same questions to Ms. West, concerning whether she took drugs, and her answer hasn’t changed. She’s said no. He can’t keep on asking the question, your honor, because he doesn’t like the response.”
     Gough, the Glynn County public defender, argued late Tuesday that Glassey’s testimony was relevant. Also relevant, Gough argued, was a Department of Family and Children’s Services report from New Jersey that allegedly describes West’s abuse and neglect of her children, including starving them.
     Gough claims this evidence could indicate that West and Louis Santiago, not De’Marquise Elkins, were responsible for baby Antonio’s death.
     Gough cited a statement West made in a videotaped interview with Glynn County Police, where she describes in a rant what type of person killed her son.
     “The kid is not going to admit that he did it. He’s a little delinquent with a crack whore mom and a dad that wasn’t there. They took his money to buy drugs, and starved him. This town is full of them. I’m pissed off, and I am leaving this town,” West said in the police interview, which was shown to the jury in its entirety late Wednesday afternoon.
     Gough claimed that West was projecting – speaking about her own past with her children – and that Glassey’s testimony bolsters his theory. He claimed that Glassey can testify that her mother was a crack addict, and continues to struggle with addiction.
     “Glassey says her mother told her she was actively using drugs in January 2013, two months before the murder of her child,” Gough said. “This ties her to drug use at the time of the killing, if she is actively using drugs in January, 60 days of the event.”
     Judge Kelley didn’t buy it.
     “Georgia law is very clear,” Kelley said. “During her testimony, Sherry West has denied using illegal drugs, having sex for drugs and denied starving her children.
     “The defense says they can prove that her statements are false, but these issues have nothing to do with this case. Is there any connection to these ‘flights of fancy’ statements, where she [West] references children having to rob and kill, or children being starved … with her starving her children 12 years ago? It’s all purely speculative in nature.
     “Courts have to have boundaries in these cases. We cannot cross-examine a witness for three weeks. We don’t allow filibusters in here.”
     Kelley denied the state’s motion to stop Gough’s cross-examination, but ruled that the part of Glassey’s testimony concerning her mother’s alleged child abuse and drug abuse are not allowed in front of the jury.
     As defense testimony continued, Gough said he would show the jury “the true Sherry West,” through her erratic and bizarre statements to police.
     Ekonomou objected.
     Gough replied: “We are eight days into the trial. It’s time to see the true Sherry West. They [prosecution] are stalling to keep the video off of the evening news.”
     “There it is, your honor,” Ekonomou shot back. “Gough wants to play it [the video] for CNN and the networks. Don’t let this case be tried in the media,” he said, pointing a finger at Gough.
     The two-hour video showed West sobbing one minute and laughing the next as she tells what happened the day her child was killed. Sometimes she rambled and made no sense; sometimes she talked to herself with no one else present. Gough entered the whole interview into evidence, in order to question West – if he chooses – about her statements.
     Det. Angela Smith, interviewing West in the video about juvenile delinquents, said: “Not all of them are bad.”
     West replied: “That’s all bullshit. They’ve been bad since the Garden of Eden, sweetheart. I don’t want to die. I want to live on this Earth forever, unless the Earth is getting worse and He [God] don’t want me on it. He wants me in heaven, that’s why He let it happen. Don’t you remember Noah and the flood?”
     After releasing the jury for the day, Kelley allowed Gough to argue his motion for a mistrial based on “outrageous government conduct.”
     Gough filed the motion in the first week of the trial. In it, he wrote that two women who had long-term relationships with Louis Santiago had approached the defense team with information about Santiago’s abusive behavior and their fear that he may be involved in the death of his son.
     When asked Wednesday why she felt compelled to come forward with her information, Santiago’s ex-wife Sandra Holboy said: “Because I think morally I needed to. I saw and heard some pre-trial things and some mistruths were told and half-truths were told.”
     Describing Santiago as “terrifying, abusive, emotional,” Holboy said that while she was pregnant with one of their three children Santiago repeatedly kicked her in the stomach.
     “He threatened physical abuse and said it would be very easy for him to have myself and my children killed,” Holboy said. “He said he could hire a crack head to kill us and he’d never be blamed.”
     Angela Carter, formerly engaged to Santiago, told a similar story of abuse and threats. Carter said on Wednesday: “I thought he had something to do with it as soon as I heard about it. He is evil, vindictive, a murderer.”
     Both women said Santiago had problems with cocaine, alcohol and marijuana. Both said they called the Brunswick Police Department to alert law enforcement about Santiago, but they were ignored.
     Based on the two women’s testimony, Gough argued that the state knew that police did not follow up on Louis Santiago so as to suppress that information from the trial.
     “The conduct is so egregious, your honor, that the only remedy is a mistrial. Other than that, unless we can get a continuance to retrieve records related to these two women and Santiago, I don’t see any other remedy,” Gough said.
     District Attorney Jackie Johnson, in a rare flash of emotion, said in a raised voice: “Your honor, Gough is trying to take this trial into a third week. He’s trying to delay the trial. This is the game he is playing.”
     Citing the same standard he used in ruling on Glassey’s testimony, Kelley denied the defense motion for mistrial.
     “Mr. Gough, if The Associated Press was able to track down Ms. Holboy, then the defense had adequate means to do the same thing,” Kelley said. “She wasn’t hiding out of fear of Santiago.”
     The defense said Wednesday evening that it is prepared to wrap up its case today (Thursday). Gough said he was willing “to go all night” on Thursday to get the case to the jury on Friday.
     Louis Santiago was expected to testify this afternoon (Thursday).

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