For slain family, tears flow but also hope after mistrial
SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A day after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of three former deputies charged in the 2017 stun gun death of Eurie Martin, the attorneys for Martin’s family expressed hope for justice but lamented the state of race relations.
Former deputies Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott were on trial, accused of murdering Martin by repeatedly shocking him with stun guns.
Prosecutors had argued the deputies had no reason to detain 58-year-old. The three white former deputies said the Black man had been walking illegally down a road.
Martin had a history of schizophrenia and was walking for 30 miles to see relatives on a hot summer day when someone he asked for water called 911 and reported him as a suspicious person.
The jury deliberated for more than 12 hours across three days but couldn’t reach a verdict, so a mistrial was declared Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, attorneys Francys Johnson and Mawuli Davis of the Davis Bozeman Johnson Law Firm held an online news conference along with Martin’s sister, Helen Martin Gilbert.
“No one knows the pain of my family as well as myself,” Gilbert said
“I literally cried myself to sleep last night because my heart was so heavy.”
She lamented that after the mistrial, the accused men still got to go home to see their families, unlike her family, which will never see Martin again.
“I don’t even see how they can possibly live with themselves knowing what they did,” she said.Martin’s family “comes to bear witness once again that they have been denied justice” and will push forward for it, Johnson said.
He said they’ll push for it criminally as well as civilly, having already filed a notice to file civil case.
The mistrial “has not changed a single thing about these facts and this family’s search for justice,” he said, adding that Martin deserves the “prosecution of his murder to the full extent of the law.”
With a mistrial, neither guilt or innocence was proven, so prosecutors can bring the case back for trial.
And Johnson said he expects that to happen.
He had high praise for the district attorney’s team, saying they pushed for justice to the best of their abilities.
The team “taught America a lesson about how to prosecute without fear or favor,” he said.
Johnson said the prosecutors “demonstrated tremendous courage” and he has “no reason to believe they won’t pursue justice to the ends of the Earth.”
The family’s lawyers, however, expressed reservations about a justice system that allowed a distant cousin of one of the former deputies to serve on the jury.
Although it was allowed under the law, Davis said, “On its very face, it appears to be not only inappropriate but inconsistent with justice and what the justice system should look like.”
He said that in any future proceedings involving the case, they want to see no relatives, either distant or close, on the jury.
Asked if the next jury should be selected from outside Washington County, the lawyers said they’d hope that the people of the county would address a crime the district attorney believed was committed there.
They said that in the courtroom of this trial, the racial divide was clear, with supporters of the accused men markedly white and supporters of the Martin family all Black.
The lawyers said they have to wonder whether the citizens of the county have the courage to convict one of their own.
But Davis said the fight will go on.
“It’s important that we finish that walk that Mr. Martin was on,” he said.
“This is for our sons, so that our sons might be able to walk freely in Georgia.”
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