MARIETTA, Ga. – After Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley denied a defense challenge to the racial makeup of the Cobb County jury that will hear the case of a Brunswick teenager charged with fatally shooting a 13-month-old boy in the face, the trial began Tuesday afternoon.
The five women and seven men, all white, heard opening statements in the murder trial of 18-year-old De'Marquise Elkins. His mother, Karimah Elkins, is also on trial on related charges.
Elkins is accused of killing Antonio Santiago on March 21 during an broad daylight attempted robbery of the child's mother, Sherry West, as she was pushing the toddler in a stroller not far from her home.
West was also hit by a bullet that day, but recovered.
The trial was moved from Glynn County to Cobb County due to concerns over pretrial publicity about the case.
"Sherry West and the toddler were shot. The motive was robbery," District Attorney Jackie Johnson told the jury. "And when it didn't happen immediately when Mr. Elkins thought it should, his reaction was to shoot."
In her opening statement, Johnson said Dominique Lang, the 15-year-old also charged with murder, will testify Elkins shot the victims, then ran from the scene.
"As for Karimah Elkins, I expect you to find her guilty of tampering with evidence and disposing of the gun and lying about his whereabouts," Johnson told the jury.
Karimah Elkins is De'Marquise Elkins' mother, but doesn't have custody of him.
Her attorney, Wrix McInvaine, says police interrogated her that morning while she was still in her pajamas and half sleep.
And as for the .22 caliber revolver she's accused of hiding:
"There is no proof that that gun is the murder weapon or was used in any crime," McInvaine told the jury. "What I want to find out in this trial and what I hope the evidence to show is, why my client is here?"
Defense attorneys say they have proof that Sherry West and the baby's father, Louis Santiago, didn't want the baby. They told the jury West may not have been mentally capable of identifying the person who shot them. They said they also plan to shoot down West's credibility with her behavior the day after the shooting.
"Around 9:45 in the morning she called her insurance company and said, 'My child just died. I have a $5,000 life insurance policy with you company and I like the money,'" attorney Jonathan Lockwood told the jury.
Before court recessed for the day, prosecutors called the medical examiner and one of the first responders called to the shooting scene. The trial is expected to least the rest of the week.
Defense challenge of jury pool denied
Tuesday morning, as the second day of jury selection in the trial began, defense attorney Kevin Gough raised concerns about the 48-member jury pool, saying there were not enough minorities to ensure Elkins receives a jury of his peers.
Jeffrey Martin, a statistician, was called to testify that there is something systematically wrong with the pool. He estimates there should be 12 to 13 African-Americans on the jury pool of 48 since Cobb County is 23 percent black. He put the odds of an all-white jury being seated in the county at 200-to-1.
Returning from the lunch break, Judge Kelly denied the defense motion asking that the two African-Americans picked as alternates be moved to the jury panel.
"The selection process is random, it's not wrong," Kelly said in dismissing the motion. "You can't constitutionally guarantee that a jury pool will look a certain way."