SANDERSVILLE, Ga. — Jurors in the trial of three ex-deputies accused of murder in Washington County have indicated they have been unable to reach a unanimous decision.
The law requires that jurors reach a unanimous decision — whether it be innocent or guilty as to each of the eight charges against the three co-defendants in the case — Michael Howell, Henry Lee Copeland and Rhett Scott.
The three men are accused of causing the death of 58-year-old Eurie Lee Martin on July 7, 2017, following a confrontation on Deepstep Road in Washington Road that led to the victim being tased several times. Martin, a Black man, died at the scene. All three of the former deputies on trial in the case are white.
Dublin Judicial Circuit Senior Judge H. Gibbs Flanders Jr. received a note from jurors shortly before 2 p.m. Monday that the 12-member jury has not been able to reach a unanimous decision regarding the fate of the co-defendants.
The judge then conferred with prosecution and defense attorneys at the bench.
Jurors began their deliberations about 11 a.m. last Friday, took an hour for lunch and then deliberated the case until about 5 p.m.
Jurors resumed their deliberations shortly after 9 a.m. Monday in Washington County Superior Court in Sandersville.
They have now been involved in deliberations for a little more than 10 hours.
“It’s just that long of a time for the court to make a decision to declare a mistrial in this case,” Flanders said Monday afternoon.
He said that he thought an Allen charge — instruction given by a court to a deadlocked jury to encourage deliberation until it reaches a verdict — would be appropriate to read the jurors.
“The jurors were asking a question very early on Friday, as I know everyone recalls, that would sort of trigger an Allen Charge,” Flanders said. “With that type of an inquiry, but it just simply wasn’t addressed at that point because it was much too early. It’s still not late in the process, but the jury, understandably, believes that they are at the point and determined they are reaching an impasse. I think it may helpful to give them this charge because it does remind the jurors of the length of the trial that they have been engaged in. And that, while the deliberations may seem long to them within the overall context of this case, they really are not.”
Flanders said the charge encourages them to move forward and try to reach a consensus.