No verdict yet in Eurie Martin trial

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) — The fate of three former Washington County Sheriff’s deputies remains in the hands of a jury. Jurors failed to reach a verdict during the first day of deliberations in the Eurie Martin trial. Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott are facing several charges in connection with Martin’s death —  two counts of felony murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless conduct.

It all stems from an encounter between Martin, a 58-year-old man with schizophrenia, and the deputies in July 2017. Deputies were called after Martin stopped at a person’s house asking for water. He was described as a “suspicious person” as he walked more than 20 miles from Milledgeville to Sandersville.

The defense team argued deputies were authorized to detain Martin, claiming he broke the law by walking in the road. After Martin was stopped, deputies say he resisted their orders, leading them to tase him. Dash camera and witness video shows Martin was tased at least 15 times, which the prosecution classified as “torture.”

“Electricity flowed from the hands of all three defendants,”,” the prosecution said. “Eurie Lee Martin potentially was subjected to 114 seconds of 50,000 volts of electricity in less than five minutes.”

The defense also argued deputies were unable to identify that Martin suffered from a mental illness.

“He [Michael Howell] was a part-time police officer serving the public for nearly 20 years,” Howell’s attorney said. “Unfortunately, he was not properly trained by Washington County on how to interact with a mentally-ill citizen.” 

The 12-person jury is now considering all of this — if Martin committed a crime, if deputies had the right to detain him and if they were justified to use force.

“If your mind is unwavering, unsettled, or unsatisfied, you must acquit the defendant,” Judge H. Gibbs Flanders explained to the jury. “But, if that doubt does not exist in your mind, you are authorized to convict the defendant.”

Family, friends and the community are now waiting for an answer. Jurors will resume deliberations Monday at 9 a.m.

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