De’Marquise Elkins, 18, was convicted of murder in the shooting death of a baby in Georgia.  Jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding him guilty of 11 counts, including two counts of felony murder and one count of malice murder for the March 21st shooting death of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago.  Elkins’ mother, Karimah, was a co-defendant and was found guilty of tampering with evidence, but acquitted of lying to police.

Sherry West testified that she was walking home from the post office with her son the morning of the killing. A gunman demanding her purse, shot her in the leg and shot her baby in the face after she told him she had no money.  Prosecutors said during the two-week trial that De’Marquise Elkins and an accomplice, 15-year-old Dominique Lang, are the ones who attempted to rob West.  They said that Elkins fired a warning shot, then shot the woman in the leg, and then shot the baby in the head.  Due to publicity, the trial was moved from Brunswick to Atlanta.  Prosecutors have said information from Elkins’ mother and sister led investigators to a pond where they found the revolver.  Elkins’ sister is charged with evidence tampering, but has not had a trial.

Dominique Lang, who was the prosecution’s star witness, is also set to go to trial at a later date.  The defense unsuccessfully tried to show that the investigation was flawed and that other leads were not investigated.  Elkins was arrested the day after the shooting.  The defense pointed to the prosecution’s witnesses having a history of crime and drug abuse and having repeatedly lied throughout the investigation.  The defense also told the jury that law enforcement officers backtracked to fit into the state’s version.  They told the jury that West made several different identifications of the suspect.  Lang testified that Elkins was the one who asked for the money and shot the gun, but then he admitted to lying repeatedly.  Lang’s cousin, Joe, was in the area the day of the shooting and fits the description of the shooter, according to the defense.

The defense also told the jury about Sherry West’s and the baby’s father, Louis Santiago and their strange behavior.  West occasionally joked and laughed during police questioning and made several bizarre statements.  Santiago was in the vicinity of the shooting, but “showed no warmth” to the mother afterward.  The defense repeatedly in pretrial motions made suggestions that the parents killed the baby.  However, questions to that effect, including bringing up the backgrounds of the parents, were stopped by the judge after prosecutors’ objections.  The prosecution argued that the defense put forward a lot of theories and a lot of speculation.

West, in a telephone interview told the media, “I was a little nervous up on the stand and just being asked so many personal questions…It was embarrassing.”

The prosecutor, District Attorney Jackie Johnson, in closing showed the jury a timeline using still images from video cameras around Brunswick which showed Elkins’ location throughout the day.  Johnson rejected that investigators stopped investigating after Elkins was arrested and pointed out that they continued to investigate Elkins, diving in the pond to recover the weapon and pulling video from cameras around town.  The prosecutor slammed the defense for saying that West’s behavior was odd following the shooting:

“Does anyone know what the protocol is for how you’re supposed to act when you’ve just watched your child get shot in the face?”

De’Marquise Elkins faces life in prison; his sentencing date has not been set.  Georgia does have the death penalty, but since Elkins was 17 at the time of the shooting, federal and state laws prohibit juveniles from receiving the death penalty as a violation of cruel and unusual punishment.  His lead defense attorney, public defender Kevin Gough, said that he would appeal and that Elkins was not able to present a full defense.  After the verdict, West didn’t have much to say to the media because she will still be a witness in further proceedings, but she did say:  “I knew why I was there and I knew that I didn’t have my baby anymore.  In the beginning I was in shock. Now things are kind of really setting in. But I’m hanging in there.”


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