Jury recesses without verdict in Washington County stun-death trial

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 7:39 PM EDT
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SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The jury recessed without a verdict Friday in the murder trial of three former Washington County deputies accused of killing a man with stun guns.

It happened a day after closing arguments were given and a second deputy chose to testify in his own defense.

The state and the defense rested their cases Thursday, pleading to the jury one last time in closing arguments.Family and supporters of Eurie Martin, the dead man, and the families of former deputies Rhett Scott, Henry Copeland, and Michael Howell filled courtroom seats Thursday for closing arguments.

Martin’s family says he had a history of mental problems and was merely walking on the road to visit his family when deputies stopped him after getting a call about a suspicious person.

“But he committed no crime. He looked different, he acted different, but all he wanted to do was get back to Sandersville,” said Kelly Weathers, prosecutor.

On the other side:

“I would submit that the evidence, in this case, has shown that these gentlemen, former public servants of this community are innocent. Just plainly innocent,” said Shawn Merzlak, defense attorney.

Charged with felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, false imprisonment, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, simple assault, and reckless conduct.

Attorneys for the former deputies argued they had reason to arrest Martin for walking in the roadway and they were doing the job they were tasked to do.

“I’m just searching for the truth. And I think the jury deserves to hear the truth. I think the Martin family, as tough as it is, deserves to hear the truth. And I think that the whole community ... deserves to hear the truth,” said Merzlak.

It’s a truth the prosecution argues differently, saying the deputies escalated the situation, violating Martin’s rights.

“We’re here because Eurie Lee Martin had every right to keep walking. The defendants had no right to stop him. No right to tase him. No right to arrest him. No right to kill him,” said Weathers.

The defense called out the prosecution for only using a few of the “50 witnesses.”

“Those witnesses are not called because it doesn’t support the state’s theory or agenda, whatever it may be,” said Merzlak.

In its rebuttal, the state argued the deputies never gave Martin a chance. Arguing for five hours, the prosecution and defense laid it all on the line.

“At no time were the officers punching Mr. Martin, kicking Mr. Martin. They were trying to get his hand in handcuffs to effectuate a lawful arrest,” said Merzlak.

Weathers said: “They wanna bring in the high-dollar folks to say Eurie Martin brought the risk. Uh-uh, that’s just not fair,” said Weathers.

The fate of the ex-deputies is now in the jury’s hands. The

judge says we can expect a verdict sometime Friday.

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