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SANDERSVILLE, Ga. — Jurors deliberating the case of three former sheriff's deputies accused of the 2017 murder of a Milledgeville man in Washington County recessed Friday afternoon without verdicts in the case. 

The jury will return Monday morning to the Washington County Courthouse in Sandersville to continue deliberations.

Jurors were asked to resume their deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday. The instruction came from Dublin Senior Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders Jr. 

The defendants in the case are Michael Howell, Henry Lee Copeland and Rhett Scott. All three were once deputies with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. They later were fired for violating departmental policies of the sheriff’s office by the late Washington County Sheriff Thomas H. Smith. Their terminations followed the death investigation of Martin.

Howell is represented in the case by lead defense attorney Shawn M. Merzlak, while Copeland and Scott are represented by defense attorneys Pierce G. Blitch IV and Mark M. Shaefer. 

Some of the last words ever uttered from the mouth of Eurie Lee Martin as he was repeatedly Tased by the trio of deputies on the hot summer day in 2017 were: “Y’all killing me; Y’all killing me; Oh, God.”

Those screams were heard on several versions of dash cam audio from the patrol cars of the deputies.

Middle Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Kelly Weathers left jurors with those words during closing arguments Thursday afternoon in Washington County Superior Court in Sandersville.

Weathers, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the 58-year-old Martin never committed a crime.

Defense attorneys disagreed. They contend Martin committed crimes by walking in the roadway and by littering when he threw down a soda can at the scene where the confrontation with deputies took place.

Weathers, who was assisted in the prosecution of the case by Special Assistant District Attorney Hayward Altman and Assistant District Attorney Bruna Rodrigues, spoke to jurors twice during closing arguments.

During her second appearance before jurors, Weathers accused defense attorneys of spending the entire trial blaming Martin up until closing arguments.

“Then they blame me and my office,” Weathers said. “They blame the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation). They blame their training. They blame John Durden.”

Durden, a retired GBI agent, testified as an expert witness for the prosecution during the trial.

“Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be fooled,” Weathers told jurors. “Could they ever be held accountable against slick lawyers and fancy experts? And they come in with this backfill because they have had four years to figure out what was it that we were doing. What crime did he (Martin) commit? I submit to you that you didn’t receive evidence that he committed a crime.”

Weathers said Michael Howell had told them when he testified in his own defense that he wasn’t thinking about a charge against Martin that day,

“You’ve got the video of Eurie Martin walking,” Weathers said. “Think about it. If you're driving down the Deepstep Road and you see somebody, anybody — don’t make him look like Eurie — make him look like Mr. Merzlak and you see him walking down Deepstep Road in that manner, are you thinking, oh, that’s a violation of the law. But you know it is not. That is backfill. That is backfill care of counsel.”

She was referring to Shawn M. Merzlak, Michael Howell’s lead defense attorney.

Weathers contended the prosecution was seeking the truth.

Weathers said people need to be held accountable when they violate the rights of innocent people.

“And not just innocent people, but vulnerable people — the most vulnerable among us,” Weathers said. “People like Eurie Martin, who did not comprehend what happened to him in the last moments of his life.”

She told jurors that the state brought so many witnesses to testify about seeing Martin on July 7, 2017, was so the prosecution team could point out that Martin was walking in the grass, contrary to Merzlak’s memory of Josh Goldman’s testimony.

Weathers expressed her gratitude to members of the jury for being diligent in listening to the testimony in the case and for taking notes.

She told them to review their notes when they began their deliberations.

“You’ll find the all of these people saw Eurie walking, but he wasn’t a hazard; he wasn’t committing a crime. No, see, this is the only thing they can come up with to cover up for the fact that Michael Howell spent one minute, asked one question of Eurie Martin.”

That single question of “who are you,” quickly escalated. 

“For 30 minutes, defendant Howell stewed and stalked,” Weathers said. “What were the first words that he said when he got out of that car? First words. ‘You got a Taser, Tase his [expletive].’”

She was referring to then Deputy Sgt. Henry Lee Copeland’s arrival to render assistance to Howell.

“Ladies and gentlemen we haven't really talked a whole lot about the suspicious person that trespassed on the day that this happened,” Weathers said. “That was their hope. He had to have been doing a trespass, which justified all of these things because we’ve killed a man. We haven’t really made a big deal out of this because the on-camera revealed the fact that he didn’t commit a crime.”

She pointed out that even Cyrus Harris, whom Martin had walked up in his yard hoping to get some water from a spigot in a Coke can, didn’t testify in the case that Martin did anything but do what he said when he was told to do it.

That was to leave Harris’ yard.

Martin did as he was told by Harris and began walking away.

Weathers said the first call from Harris to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office about a suspicious person was not a crime.

“What that was was a man in mental health crisis that just needed to be checked out,” Weathers said. “He (Martin) didn’t need to be arrested. He didn’t need to be Tased again, again and again. He didn’t need to be taken to the ground by two very large officers. He didn't need to be left 10 minutes facedown in the dirt with his hands handcuffed behind his back. He needed help. He didn’t get it.”

The lead assistant district attorney said Harris’ 911 call was made at 7:18 p.m.

Michael Howell later located Martin at 7:32 p.m.

“And you heard the traffic: ‘I’ll be out,’” Weathers said. “Well, he never got out of his car. He looked at him and said, ‘Nah, I don’t want to deal with this today.’”

Less than a minute later, Howell called for backup.

Weathers said she didn’t want to act outraged, but she admitted she sort of was, “because if that is the basis for the detention of this man which led to his last day on earth, we've got a problem — a serious problem.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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