Washington County body/dash cam examined in stun-gun death trial

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Testimony continues in the murder trial of three former deputies in Washington County.

Body-cam footage shows the officers tasing 58-year-old Eurie Martin at least 15 times in four minutes. He died shortly after. Martin’s family and attorneys speaking out Friday about just how important this trial really is.

“If these deputies are convicted, they will be the first law enforcement to ever be held accountable for the murder of a black man or woman in this state,” said Francys Johnson.

On Thursday, the jury heard eyewitness testimony. On Friday, they got to see part of it for themselves. The prosecution started by showing more than 40 minutes of dashcam video. From the moment deputies pulled up to the time Martin’s body was taken away by ambulance.

From the angle of the video recorded on a deputy’s dash cam, you can’t see everything that happens. But what you hear tells a story.

Deputy: “Get on the ground, get on the ground *inaudible*”

Assumedly Martin: “*inaudible* mumbled screaming”

Prosecutors used a series of body cam and dash cam video to map out the actions that led to Eurie Martin’s death. As well as calling Washington County’s chief deputy to the stand.

Mark McGraw explained the three deputies violated three policies for: Improper use of a stun gun, improper supervision by then supervisor Henry Copeland, and escalation.

“They fairly quickly initiated – escalated into something more than just a suspicious person, they didn’t have the authority to do that by policy or law,” said McGraw.

The defense argued back clarifying officers did follow the proper detainment steps. By giving verbal commands, going to physical control, and if that doesn’t work using pepper spray or a stun gun. They also learned at the time all of the deputies working for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office only had about one hour of mental health training.

“Since this incident, the training with dealing with people with mental illness, diminished capacity things of that nature has greatly improved in you agency thanks to Sheriff Cochran has it not?” said Shaun Merzlak, defense attorney.

“Yes sir,” said McGraw.

“This was a learning experience was it not?” said Merzlak.

“Yes sir. Yeah for lots of people, yes sir,” said McGraw.

Now, they have 40 hours. The medical examiner, who ruled the death as homicide, said several factors contributed to Martin’s death including hypertension and schizophrenia. But...

“The death, in this case, was initiated by the interaction with police,” said Dr. Keigh Lehman, medical examiner.

In addition to hours of body cam video the state also presented autopsy photos of Martin’s body. During much of that his family, very emotional of course, had to leave the courtroom.

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