The murder trial of a black man accused of shooting a biracial toddler in the face was moved to Cobb County from coastal Georgia because community opinion there was hotly divided among racial lines and other lines.
But the attorney defending 18-year-old De’Marquise Elkins said Monday on the first day of jury selection the Cobb residents being considered did not reflect a pool of the defendant’s peers
“You mean to tell me that out of the 48 people selected from Cobb County, there’s not a single black male,” Glynn County Public Defender Kevin Gough said.
Midway through the first day of jury selection, Gough filed a motion to re-form the four jury panels because there were no black men among the potential choices for jurors.
Of the 48 jurors, there are 19 white men, 19 white women, four black women, two Hispanic women, two Asian women, one Hispanic man and one Asian man.
Roughly 30 African Americans – 15 men and 14 women – were placed on the bottom of the list of 117 people summoned for Elkins’ trial because they were among the last to arrive to court Monday morning, Gough said.
“It is my understanding that jurors who are late go to the bottom of the list,” Gough said, pointing out that there also no one in the jury pool close to Elkins’ age. “Can we all agree that there are no young people or black men in the jury pool?”
Elkins and Dominique Lang, 15, are accused of trying to rob Sherry West, the toddler’s mother as she walked Antonio Santiago in his stroller through her neighborhood on March 21.
Police said West told them that when she was unable to give the armed teens the money, Elkins shot her in the leg, and shot Antonio in the face, killing the child.
Jury selection for the trial began Monday morning and could go through the week.
Elkins and Lang are African American. Antonio was biracial; his mother is white and his father is Hispanic.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley denied Gough’s motion, but left open room for Gough to support his concerns later
“Do you have actual evidence? Or are you being presumptive?” Kelley asked, and moved forward with jury selection.
Cobb jury administrator Deborah Matthews took the stand after jury selection was completed for the day and she said a computer randomly selected and distributed the jury numbers to each 12-person panel. On Monday, she said there were 17 panels.
“It depends on when they come,” she said.
But Glynn County Assistant District Attoney Andrew Ekonomou challenged the notion that some type of scheme was in play to leave black jurors out of Kelley’s courtroom.
“Did you, as the jury commissioner, select jurors that were predominantly white to send to Judge Kelley’s courtroom?” he asked Matthews.
“No,” she replied.
Dissatisfied with Matthews’ answers, Gough demanded the judge repanel the jury candidates Tuesday morning.
“That disparity is so great that it cannot be attributed to a random event,” Gough said.
As he did to Gough’s first mention of the issue, Kelley denied the motion.
Elkins wore a gray shirt, gray slacks and a black and white tie, and sat at the end of the defendants’ table with his mother, Karimah Elkins, 36, who is on trial with him for evidence tampering charges stemming from allegations that she hid the murder weapon.
Lang will be tried at a later date, as will De’Marquise Elkins’ sister, 19-year-old Sabrina Elkins, who also is charged with evidence tampering and lying to police, prosecutors said.
Katrina Elkins, De’Marquise Elkins’ aunt, also will be tried later for allegedly lying to police.
Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds sat with Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson to offer a local perspective during jury selection, prosecutors said. It has not been decided if the subsequent trials will be moved from Glynn County.