Jury stuck without a verdict in Washington County death

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 7:44 AM EDT
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SANDERSVILLE, Ga. - After deliberations resumed Monday in the murder trial of three former deputies charged in a 2017 stun-gun death, jurors sent the judge a note that they could not reach a decision.

The deliberations resumed after the panel recessed Friday afternoon without reaching a verdict in the murder trial over the 2017 stun-gun death of Eurie Martin in Washington County. Former deputies Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott are charged.

One juror asked to be excused Monday morning but was denied.

Later Monday morning, jurors asked to view the cellphone video from witness Kelby Wiley, who testified earlier in the trial.

But in the afternoon, we learned that jurors sent a note that they were unable to reach a decision.

The judge is presenting them with what’s known as an Allen Charge.

That’s essentially when the judge pushes jurors to make a decision, explaining to them that if they don’t make a decision, the case would be retried with the same evidence and a new jury that would probably have the same difficulties.

The jury did ask for another verdict sheet for Howell, the one deputy who did not have a stun gun.

Prosecutors argued at trial that the white former deputies deputies had no reason to detain 58-year old Martin, who was Black.

The defendants say Martin was illegally walking in the road in the tiny community of Deepstep during a 30-mile journey to see relatives on a hot summer day.

Martin had a history of schizophrenia.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most recent questions in the trial.

Three main topics are the focus for the jury’s decision.

Number one – was Eurie Martin walking in the roadway?

Prosecutor Kelly Weathers: “Copeland arrives, here’s Eurie walking in the grass. It’s not until he’s sandwiched by the two officers that he has to get off that safe space where he’s walking.”

The court says it’s an important factor to consider because if Martin was walking in the road, that’s a violation of state law giving deputies cause for arrest as the defense points out.

Secondly — what tier of police-citizen encounter was this?

Members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and outside experts testified three tiers of police encounters: Tier one is a voluntary conversation with no authority to arrest. That’s what the state argues it was.

Defense attorney Shawn Merzlak: “They have the right to detain Mr. Martin, they have the right to detain and further investigate, they have the right to issue him a warning.”

“Eurie Martin did nothing to justify his detention. He did nothing to justify these men putting their hands on him,” the prosecution argued.

And tier 2 is reasonable suspicion of a crime. This is when police have the authority to detain and ask questions, which the defense argues it was.

“We know specifically that Mr. Martin’s actions and mannerisms that day were at a point where people were alarmed,” the defense said.

The last question brought up in court: are stun guns deadly force?

The defense argued a stun gun couldn’t have killed Martin, while the state argues electrocution from the stun guns didn’t cause it but the shock was the main element.

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