Attorneys prep for trial in baby's killing

Pretrial hearings continue Friday in shooting death of 13-month-old

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Less than three weeks away from the start of the first trial in the shooting death of a 13-month-old boy, lawyers on both sides are making their final preparations before the judge about what will happen when the case is in the hands of a jury.

At times, the conversations between prosecutors and the team of defense lawyers at a hearing Thursday got heated, both parties arguing about evidence, witnesses and wording in the case against De'Marquise Elkins.

Elkins is one of two teens accused of killing Antonio Santiago (pictured, below) in March while the child's mother was walking him down the street in a stroller. Dominique Lang, 15, is also charged with murder.

Police say the boy's mother was shot as well but has recovered.

On Thursday, Elkins sat at the same table as his aunt, Katrina Elkins, who's accused of giving a false statement to police, along with his mom and sister, Karimah and Sabrina Elkins, who are accused of lying to police and helping dump the murder weapon.

Antonio Santiago
Antonio Santiago

Lang, who prosecutors say was there with Elkins when he shot and killed Santiago, wasn't in court but is due to appear on Friday.

"My only concern is that my client get a fair trial, and one way or another we've got to have that," said Kevin Gough, Elkins' attorney.

Defense attorneys went over a laundry list of requests for the judge. They asked for more evidence and criminal records for witnesses. They even asked for the judge to ban the words murder and victim in the trial because they'd make the jury prejudiced against the suspects. The judge denied that.

The defense also asked for histories on Santiago's parents, Sherry West and Louis Santiago. They asked for Louis' rap sheet and drug and mental evaluations for Sherry, who the defense says suffers from a slew of mental illnesses.

"Whether she takes drugs at this point in time is highly relevant to her ability to recall events accurately," Gough said. "Certainly if she was taking street drugs at the time of the shooting, that would be highly relevant again to her ability to recall and testify reliably with respect to the issue of witness identification."

State prosecutors fired back, standing up for the woman who police say was shot and injured in the March 21 shooting.

"She's not on trial in this case," prosecutor Andrew Ekonomou said. "We want to have a competency hearing as to a witness?"

The one thing that all sides did seem to agree on is they want the case to remain on schedule and go to trial in the coming weeks.

"The Sheriff's Office, the judicial system, the (District Attorney's) office, our office are fairly heavily invested at this point in getting this case tried on Aug. 19," Gough said.

Because this case is so high-profile and controversial, the judge ordered the trial to be held in Cobb County, outside Atlanta. On Thursday, the judge agreed that Katrina be severed from the case, meaning she'll get her own trial.

Lang was given the opportunity for his own trial on Wednesday, so it will likely be De'Marquise, his mother and sister tried together on Aug. 19.

Santiago's mother was being held in a witness room at the courthouse Thursday. It was expected she would take the stand but lawyers didn't get to that. The pretrial hearings continue Friday.