Trial underway for three former Washington County deputies in taser death

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SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (WJBF) – Three former deputies are on trial in the alleged taser death of a man they arrested in 2017 in Washington County.

A court hearing took place Friday morning in Washington County Superior Court for Rhett Scott, Michael Howell and Henry Copeland. The three men face charges for felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and reckless conduct. They are accused in the taser death of 58-year-old Eurie Martin.

Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, Jr. heard additional motions from defense attorneys and state prosecutors, including allowing expert witnesses from both sides to weigh in virtually. The court also addressed how to frame questions to avoid jurors being impartial.

Defense Attorney Shawn Merzlak explained, “If the judge told you that you can’t have that opinion and you can only use the evidence that’s presented here and you come to a different conclusion, that’s what we are trying to avoid.”

Judge Flanders broke down how the COVID pandemic would impact the jury selection process. He explained that the CDC approved, 3-feet apart, social distancing rule would make limited seating for the general public. So far, there are 51 seats in the court, with just 10 for the general public. He said the state courtroom, in the same building, would offer 21 seats for the community. But each side would have reserved seating for respective interested parties.

Judge Flanders added, “Three reserved passes for the state to provide to whomever appears appropriate. More than likely it will be the members of the victims family. I will let the state make that determination. And then for each of the defendants, we have two passes.”

COVID screenings will also take place prior to trial, which begins with jury selection Monday at 9am in Washington County Superior Court. It will recess at 5pm each day with a one hour lunch break at noon.

Media will also be allowed to cover the trial, but could be required to share footage due to space. We will follow this trial throughout the week.

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