Friday, December 9, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Painful Moments|in Baby Murder Trial

MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) - Jury members winced Tuesday on viewing autopsy photos of the baby De'Marquise Elkins is accused of shooting in the face because its mother wouldn't give the teenager money.

Thirteen-month old Antonio Santiago died of a shot to the head in March as his mom pushed him in a stroller. Elkins, 17, is charged with murdering the baby with a .22-caliber handgun.

Tuesday was the first day of trial testimony, after a day of jury selection in which Elkins' attorney objected that there was not a single black man among the 48 members of the jury pool.

The autopsy photos showed an entry wound between the baby's eyes.

They were entered into evidence by Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who examined the first-responder paramedic and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Regional Medical Examiner Dr. James Downs, a forensic pathologist.

Both witnesses confirmed under direct and cross examination that baby Antonio died instantly from the gunshot wound.

In opening arguments, Johnson laid out the sequence of events.

She told jurors that Sherry West was walking home from a post office not far from her home, pushing her baby in a stroller, when she was approached by two black males.

"One had a handgun, the oldest one, and he pointed at her and asked her for money," Johnson said.

"Sherry West did not immediately hand over her purse and resisted. The second young man was there, though West said he appeared to be hiding behind the young man with the gun. The young man with the gun took that gun and aimed it at Antonio Santiago, shooting him right between the eyes."

Johnson said West identified her assailants as De'Marquise Elkins and Dominique Lang, and that Lang corroborated that Elkins was the shooter.

Johnson said Elkins hid the murder weapon, a .22 caliber pistol, at the home of Danielle and Ronald Williams, before the police arrived to question him.

Elkins' mother Karimah became part of the cover-up, Johnson said, when she got the gun, flagged down a vehicle, went to a salt marsh and threw the gun into the marsh.

Karimah Elkins is being tried with her son, on charges of obstructing justice and making false statements to police.

"When police got information that it had been thrown in the pond, they went there and started diving for the gun," Johnson said. "A few days after the baby was shot, the diver was able to retrieve a .22-caliber pistol. A bullet fragment was taken out of the baby and Sherry West, and it was consistent with being fired from a .22-caliber pistol."

West was wounded in the shooting.

Johnson told the jury that Brunswick Police Det. Roy Blackstock attributed the robbery and shooting of Wilfredo Calix-Flores, 10 days before the robbery of West and the murder of her baby, to De'Marquise Elkins.

In his opening argument, defense attorney Jonathan Lockwood disputed the validity of Blackstock's investigation.

"You are going to hear evidence that Blackstock did no real investigation on the case," Lockwood said.

"Blackstock creates a theory about the case based on the baby shooting. Blackstock told Flores and the other witness what they saw and what they heard."

Lockwood also attacked the police interrogation of Dominique Lang, claiming the police had "tunnel vision," focused solely on Elkins as the shooter.


"Mr. Lang has given five to seven accounts of what happened, and they have Elkins arrested based on Lang's admission," Lockwood said. "Accomplices gave multiple different statements, and were instructed on what the right answer was by investigators."

Lockwood said he would show that West and the baby's father, Louis Santiago, both had gunshot residue on their hands, that Louis Santiago told a hospital chaplain that the couple was not happy to have had the baby, and that the day after the shooting the couple made a phone call to Gerber Life Insurance for a $500,000 insurance policy.

Karimah Elkins' attorney, Wrix McIlvaine, told the jury in his brief opening statement: "I don't even know why my client is here."

McIlwane added: "The day after the shooting, they [police] go to my client's home, at 8:30 a.m. She's still in her pajamas, half asleep and she's got submachine guns in her face, with eight officers with handguns and they did not find a darn thing in that house.

"You won't hear any evidence about how my client shot a child."

Earlier Tuesday, defense attorneys continued their protest of the jury selection.

Lead defense attorney Kevin Gough filed another motion to dismiss the jury pool, claiming the system did not reflect the composition of Cobb County's African American population.

With final jury selection still pending, Glynn County Superior Court Judge Steven Kelley allowed Gough to question his expert, jury pool statistician Jeffrey O. Martin, who said he has worked with counties across the state on jury composition of Georgia superior courts since 1997.

Martin testified that the biggest issue affecting the composition of a jury pool is duplicate names appearing on the state's jury list. The main 2012 list is derived from driver and voter registration records, and is used by superior courts across the state.

"Since the July 1, 2012 list came into effect, I have looked at that list in eight to 10 various superior courts, and what became apparent was the duplication of the jury list," Martin said. "Jurors were named twice. For duplicates, those individuals are twice as likely to be white in all of the counties I have researched."

Martin said African-Americans accounted for 24.38 percent of Cobb County's population.

In a representative sample of the four randomly selected jury panels of 12, totaling 48 potential jurors in this case, Martin said, "You would expect that it would mirror the 24 or 25 percent, which would mean 14 or 15 African-Americans should have been in the jury pool."

There were just three African-Americans in the pool of 48, all three of them women.

Gough asked: "With the information you have, statistically, the odds would be 200 to 1 that this panel, with only three African-Americans would be selected then, right?"

Martin replied: "Yes, that is correct. It's like any other scientific endeavor. What the statistics are telling us is that something else is wrong here."

Gough told the judge: "Hard cases make bad laws. You simply cannot expect a young black man who murdered a white child not to object that this is a violation of his civil rights. The numbers don't lie, your honor. This is a nightmare scenario that nobody anticipated."

McIlvaine agreed: "We just don't think the court can ignore how we got this jury panel; the court can't ignore the lack of justice there."

Arguments lasted well into the morning, and ended with Judge Kelley denying the motion for reconsideration, saying: "There is no evidence that the state has done anything different to try to get people on a jury list. All of the evidence points to the randomness of this jury panel."

The jury of 12, plus three alternates, includes 10 men and five women. Two are African-American women, one is a Latino man and one a Latina.

Witnesses examined on Tuesday included EMTs, the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy, and the first police officer at the scene.

Dominique Lang is expected take the stand today (Wednesday), as the prosecution continues the state's case.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.