Brunswick Police and Glynn County Police needed a win, and De’Marquise Elkins presented an opportunity to wrap up two difficult cases, lawyers said.
During opening statements in Elkins’ murder trial, the attorney for the Brunswick teen accused of shooting a baby in the face said police targeted him to expedite their investigation.
“Police were under a great deal of stress and pressure, economically, from the press, to make an arrest in this case,” Glynn County Public Defender Jonathan Lockwood said.
Prosecutors say Elkins, 18, shot the 13-month-old Antonio and his mother Sherry West he tried to rob West on the morning of March 21 as she pushed the child’s stroller.
“At some point, when Sherry did not hand over money, the young man pointed the gun at Antonio and shot him right between the eyes,” Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson said.
Elkins is being charged with malice murder, felony murder, child cruelty, attempted armed robbery and multiple counts of aggravated assault.
Elkins’ mother, Karimah Elkins, also is on trial on allegations she lied to police and had the .22-caliber handgun used in the shooting thrown into a salt-water pond north of Brunswick.
Her attorney, Wrix McIlvaine, said his client had no involvement in the shooting.
“You won’t hear any evidence about how my client shot a child,” McIlvaine told jurors. “Why is my client here?”
Johnson said Dominique Lang, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, was De’Marquise Elkins’ accomplice and a key to tracking down the alleged gunman the next day.
Lang told police he met with De’Marquise Elkins around 9 a.m. that morning, not far from where the shooting occurred, Johnson told the jury.
“De’Marquise said to Dominque that he was looking for someone to rob,” she said.
Lang, who will be tried at a later time, is expected to testify for prosecutors, corroborating Wests’ details of her and her son’s shootings, prosecutors say.
But Lockwood suggested police initially didn’t believe Lang.
“Detectives interviewing Lang said to him, ‘everything out of your … mouth is lie,’” the defense attorney told the jury. “After that, police obtained tunnel vision.”
A detective investigating the robbery and shooting of Wilfredo Calix-Flores, 10 days prior to Antonio’s death, linked his case to De’Marquise Elkins, Johnson told the jury.
“When he heard about the case, he said it sounded similar to a case he was investigating,” she said of Brunswick Police Detective Roy Blackstock, who is expected to testify. “When the suspects were identified in the baby case, a lineup was produced.”
A witness pointed out De’Marquise Elkins.
Lockwood called the detective opportunistic and lazy, however.
“Blackstock … did no real investigating on his case until 10 days later,” Lockwood said. “Until this case.”
The trial began after a contentious jury selection in which Lockwood’s co-counsel, Glynn County Public Defender Kevin Gough on three occasions tried unsuccessfully to redraw the panel of juror candidates because there were no black men among them.
It had been moved from coastal Glynn County because the community there was divided along racial lines, among other things.
When testimony began late Tuesday afternoon, the first witnesses, a paramedic who responded when Antonio was shot and the GBI medical examiner, brought tears to jurors’ eyes as they answered questions about the pictures displayed of the toddler’s fatal injury.
“This death was instantaneous,” GBI forensic pathologist Dr. Jaimie Downs said. “There was no surviving this injury.”
One witness, Brunswick Police Detective Angela Smith admitted to initially thinking West shot her own child, just because of how bizarre the mother’s story was.
“Did you consider Sherry West a suspect in this case?” Johnson asked the detective.
“Somewhat … yes,” Smith said.
“Because it was just hard to believe,” Smith said.
Testimony continues Wednesday at 9 a.m.