MARIETTA — De’Marquise Elkins had the same blank, emotionless expression he showed throughout his two-week trial Friday when he learned he’d likely be spending life in prison.
After two days of jury selection and eight days of evidence, the all-white jury of nine men and three women found Elkins, who is black, guilty on all counts including murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children.
The jury took two hours to reach its verdict.
Elkins shot 13-month-old Antonito Santiago between the eyes March 21 in Brunswick. It was an attempted robbery that left the baby’s mother, Sherry West, injured. West took the stand Tuesday to give a tearful account of the shooting but was not in court when the jury delivered the verdict Friday.
Ten days before he killed Antonio, Elkins is accused of shooting a Hispanic minister in another robbery attempt. The minister survived the shooting.
Elkins’ mother, Karimah Elkins, was found guilty of tampering with evidence, a felony, for getting rid of the .22-caliber revolver used to kill Antonio. She wiped a tear from her eye after the verdict was read.
She was found not guilty of making false statements. Prosecutors alleged she gave her son a false alibi.
The two will be sentenced at a later date in Glynn County.
The trial was moved from Glynn to Cobb County because of concerns over media coverage influencing a jury and racial tensions in the coastal city.
Elkins will appeal
From the beginning, defense attorneys for Elkins have maintained his innocence.
The two-week trial was full of bitter back-and-forth exchanges of objections and exchanges of objections and motions for mistrials between the defense and prosecution as defense attorneys tried to convince jurors that Elkins was nowhere near the scene of the shooting.
Elkins told police he didn’t wake up until 10 a.m. the day of the shooting, an hour after Antonio was killed, and then went to class at a GED program.
Prosecutors showed video footage from a government housing project and convenience store that placed him near the scene before and after the shooting.
Defense attorneys said the prosecution’s case was conducted with “blinders” and focused solely on Elkins.
“However unpleasant, the defense’s investigation of this case, unlike that of the state, followed the evidence wherever it led,” said Kevin Gough, lead defense attorney.
Elkins will file an appeal and “will eventually be exonerated,” Gough said.
Gough says important evidence was withheld from jurors.
He implicated Louis Santiago, the father of the murdered baby, in the killing and said his ex-wife and ex-fiancee should have been allowed to testify about what Gough called hi checkered past and violent tendencies.
The women testified in a motion hearing but the judge did not allow them to go before the jury.
Attorneys lay out case for the last time
Prosecuting and defense attorneys spent three hours making their final case before the jury delivered its verdict.
Defense attorney Jonathan Lockwood said any number of guns could have killed Antonio and any number of individuals could have pulled the trigger.
He said the foundation of the prosecution’s case is “broken and cracked.”
In a last-minute effort to cast doubt in the minds of jurors, he rehashed how Santiago, the baby’s father, had gunshot residue on his hands. Prosecutors explained that by saying he touched West’s, the mother’s, hand in the hospital and it’s possible to test positive for the residue by touching a victim who was shot at close range.
West’s original account described a boy about 15 years old and a younger child about 5.
Lockwood tried to imply Dominique Lang, also charged with murder, was the shooter. He is 15 years old and has a 5-year-old brother.
Lang was the state’s star witness and admitted to lying more than a dozen times in front of the jury saying, “OK. I lied. I lied. I lied.”
Lang is accused of being at the shooting but will be tried separately in Glynn County.
He froze on the stand when confronted about an inconsistency in his story regarding where he woke up the day of the shooting. Lang’s mother is in prison and he doesn’t have a permanent home.
“It’s hard to understand what’s in the mind of a 15-year-old that doesn’t have clothes to wear to school and just witnessed a murder,” said Jackie Johnson, district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.
West’s behavior was strange and bizarre, Lockwood said, after learning her child had been shot. She nervously joked with police officers during an interview and called her life insurance company the morning after the killing.
“Does anybody know what the protocol is about how you’re supposed to act after you watch your baby get shot?” Johnson asked.
She said Elkins preys on the weak and “you can’t get any more weak than a child sleeping in a stroller.”
“What he saw that day was a woman with a baby. She’ll give me what I want because she’s got a baby,” Johnson said.
Still, Johnson said Elkins did the unthinkable and killed the sleeping baby in his stroller.
“He lied and his momma hid the evidence,” Johnson said. “He lied, he hid and he ran. You can lie and hide and run but you’re guilty.”
Now West will never know what her son could have become, Johnson said.
“He might’ve been mentally ill like his mom. He might’ve been without work like his dad. He might’ve been the next Stephen Hawking,” she said. “Who knows?”