Judge clears deputies in taser death based on self defense

CSRA News

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s a case that sparked major controversy in Washington County, Georgia. The death of Eurie Lee Martin left many questions for his family after the 58-year-old man from Milledgeville was tased by three Sheriff’s Deputies while walking through Deepstep. Most of it was captured on cell phone and dashcam video. The family told NewsChannel 6 back in July of 2017 that the act was unnecessary.

“Why was a Taser used and to the extent that it was used? I guess in their way to control the situation? To me it really didn’t seem like the situation was uncontrollable,” said Annie Gilbert-Gibbons, his niece.

A court document out of the Superior Court of Washington is the latest in the case that put Deputy Rhett Scott, Deputy Michael Howell and Sergeant Henry Copeland on the other side of the law with an eight count indictment for felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and reckless conduct. But a judge granted their motion to dismiss the case based on self defense.

Pictured in order: Deputy Rhett Scott, Deputy Michael Howell and Sergeant Henry Copeland

The document explains Martin approached a man mowing his lawn and indicated he wanted a drink of water. It notes the heat index was more than 100 degrees. That man called 911 and described Martin as crazy and drunk. That’s when Deputy Howell responded, located Martin and noted he was very dirty, sweating profusely and he said he had an evil look in his eye and perceived him to be a threat. When asked if he was OK and his name, the deputy claims Martin just looked at him and loudly said, who are you?

But Martin’s family told us back then they alerted a 911 caller of some vital information.

Gilbert-Gibbons told us in 2017, “My mother identified exactly who he was. She made it known that he did have a mental illness.”

The deputies report that Martin continued to walk and ignored them, even clinching his fists at one time. After repeated commands, Deputy Howell said “Tase his ass.” Resisting continued, including when Martin removed the taser prong from his arm. Video shows the deputies getting him to the ground to handcuff after a second tase to which Martin begins flailing his arms. The entire incident from the first tase until handcuffing lasted three minutes with 11 taser activations. The Taser company reports each activation is typically 50,000 volts, totaling 550,000 volts for Martin.

The presiding judge ruled that the deputies actions were justified citing Georgia law that states law enforcement can use force if necessary to defend themselves.

It also notes that an officer may not use more force than is reasonably necessary.

The report states some circumstances were unknown such as Martin’s mental illness. And a GBI witness says the deputies were not trained under the new course which teaches how tasing someone larger can impact their breathing.

The Middle Georgia District Attorney tells us he plans to appeal this case to the Georgia Supreme Court.

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