MILLEDGEVILLE — A prison murder case began Tuesday at the Baldwin County Courthouse and ended promptly the following day with a guilty verdict.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Chief assistant district attorney Stephen Bradley said the jury took less than 10 minutes Wednesday to find the defendant, Carl Eric Merkerson, guilty of the March 9, 2010 murder of Terrence Demond Bowen.
Merkerson was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“He was found guilty but mentally ill. There was evidence of mental illness, but that illness did not drive his criminal behavior in this case,” Bradley said. “The jury found that (Merkerson) was able to separate right and wrong and that his crime was not a product of delusion.”
Merkerson was already serving a life sentence at Baldwin State Prison for a DeKalb County murder conviction at the time of the 2010 crime against his roommate.
According to reports, Merkerson beat up Bowen, who was found in his cell unconscious by prison guards. Bowen succumbed to his injuries the following day.
Bradley said a prison witness stated Tuesday guards checked on the two at 10:38 a.m that March day. At 10:55 a.m. when lunch was delivered to them, Merkerson was seen on top of Bowen pressing his head into the commode, according to the testimony.
“The jury heard the defendant’s interview with law enforcement,” Bradley said. “(Merkerson) claims the victim slipped off of his bunk, and he was just helping him.”
The prosecution’s final Tuesday witness was the Macon trauma surgeon that treated Bowen. The surgeon described the victim’s injuries to the jury.
The jury heard evidence pieced together from the blood in the prison cell that indicated the crime’s brutality, according to Bradley. Bowen died from asphyxiation.
“All the injuries were in the head except for the neck, which showed signs of significant trauma,” the DA said.
The defendant asserted a mental health defense. Jurors heard from mental health professionals who provided an accurate picture of the defendant’s mental state around the crime.
Bradley was pleased at the speedy outcome of the trial.
“Prison is not a pretty environment, but nobody deserves to be treated this way,” he said.
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