Agent: Georgia deputies unjustified in stopping man who died

Oct 19, 2021, 8:22 AM | Updated: 8:47 am

SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent told jurors Monday that a man who died after being stopped by Washington County sheriff’s deputies had not committed a crime and should have been allowed to keep walking.

Local news outlets report John Durden told jurors that then-deputies Henry Lee Copeland, Michael Howell and Rhett Scott were not justified in stopping or detaining Eurie Martin in 2017 in Deepstep, Georgia. The three former deputies, all white, are on trial for the murder of Martin, who was Black, after repeatedly shocking him with stun guns.

“I don’t think there was a crime, enough to stop him for reasonable suspicion,” said Durden, who was admitted as an expert on use-of-force training.

Martin, 58, had been reported as suspicious in a 911 call from a resident of the Washington County town in central Georgia while on a 30-mile (50-kilometer) walk to see relatives on a sweltering July day. Howell and Copeland ordered Martin to stop walking on the roadway, place his hands on his head and lie down.

“Was Eurie Martin constitutionally entitled to keep walking in your opinion?” asked prosecutor Kelly Weathers.

“Yes,” said Durden.

The defense argues Martin was illegally walking in the road and that he took an aggressive stance toward deputies that was not recorded on the video of Martin’s death. During cross-examination, Durden agreed that Martin had crossed the white line from the shoulder into the roadway, based on photos presented by the defense.

Jurors were shown 20 minutes of dashboard camera video of Martin’s arrest, which included Martin’s screams and buzzing from the deputies’ stun guns. The deputies are heard giving Martin commands.

Another GBI agent testified that Scott and Copeland fired their stun guns repeatedly during a four-minute period, administering doses of electricity as long as 19 seconds from Scott and 13 from Copeland. Martin got up and kept walking away after being stunned the first time, and then was stunned a second time.

Jurors also listened to 911 calls from the day of Martin’s death, starting with a resident who told dispatchers that “I got a guy walking off the side of the road here, just walked in my yard. I don’t know where he was crazy, drunk or what.”

Washington County Chief Deputy Mark McGraw testified under questioning from Weathers that deputies were trained to use only “objectively reasonable” force. Prosecutors argue deputies were not in danger and did not need to use force on Martin.

But defense attorney Shawn Merzlak argued the three were following their training, getting McGraw to agree that deputies were trained that a stun gun “is a device that should be used before hard-handed techniques because it is the device that is most likely to get compliance without serious injury to the suspect or the officer.”

Defense lawyers also got witnesses to acknowledge that Washington County deputies are now taught 50 hours of mental health training, while the three deputies on trial did not get that instruction.

The trial is taking place after the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a lower court ruling that the deputies should be immune from prosecution. Senior Judge H. Gibbs Flanders initially found use of force against Martin was justified under Georgia’s stand your ground law. That law allows for people to defend themselves with violence if they have a reasonable belief that they are in bodily danger.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - The FBI's unsealed search warrant for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in P...
Associated Press

Trump supporters’ threats to judge spur democracy concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of federal judges face the same task every day: review an affidavit submitted by federal agents and approve requests for a search warrant. But for U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the fallout from his decision to approve a search warrant has been far from routine. He has faced a storm of […]
12 hours ago
FILE - A Bed Bath & Beyond sign is shown in Mountain View, Calif., May 9, 2012. Shares in Bed Bath ...
Associated Press

Return of the meme stock: Bed Bath & Beyond shares skyrocket

NEW YORK (AP) — After a quiet first half of 2022, the meme stock is back. Beyond and back, in fact. Shares in Bed Bath & Beyond jumped 25% Wednesday on huge trading volume, and the mall-based home goods retailer’s stock has nearly quintupled in a little more than two weeks. If the stock’s price […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Parole granted to last 1976 California school bus hijacker

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The last of three men convicted of hijacking a school bus full of California children for an attempted $5 million ransom in 1976 in what a prosecutor called “the largest mass kidnapping in U.S. history” is being released by the state’s parole board. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the board to reconsider […]
12 hours ago
Alex Murdaugh is escorted out of the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., on Wednesday, ...
Associated Press

Evidence dispute spills into public in Alex Murdaugh case

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Attorneys for disbarred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh say prosecutors are taking too long to share their evidence alleging the disbarred attorney killed his wife and so n, unfairly making it tougher to defend him at his upcoming trial. It’s a technical legal dispute that precedes many trials, but because of […]
12 hours ago
FILE - This undated combination of file photos show the signs of CVS, Walmart and Walgreens. A fede...
Associated Press

Judge: Pharmacies owe 2 Ohio counties $650M in opioids suit

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650 million in damages Wednesday to two Ohio counties that won a landmark lawsuit against national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, claiming the way they distributed opioids to customers caused severe harm to communities and created a public nuisance. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster said […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Family to proceed with suit alleging man tortured in Lebanon

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Relatives of a Lebanese American man said they are happy to proceed with their lawsuit alleging that Lebanon’s security agency kidnapped and tortured him before he died in the U.S., now that a judge has rejected the agency’s attempt to strike the allegations. Amer Fakhoury died in the United States in […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Agent: Georgia deputies unjustified in stopping man who died