MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) - A Georgia state jury today is expected to begin deliberating the fate of a teenager accused of murdering a baby in a stroller by shooting him in the face after the baby's mother refused to hand over her purse.
The judge in the felony murder trial of De'Marquise Elkins on Thursday barred two women from testifying about the background of the father of the year-old baby, Antonio Santiago.
Elkins, now 18, is accused of murdering the 13-month-old baby on a sidewalk in Brunswick, Ga. He also is charged with shooting the baby's mother, Sherry West, and trying to rob her.
Elkins could be sentenced to life in prison without parole - but not death - because he was 17 when the crime was committed, on March 21.
His mother, Karimah Elkins, is being tried with her son, accused of tampering of evidence by throwing the gun into a salt marsh and lying to police.
Also charged with murder is Dominique Lang, 15, who acknowledged in testimony that he was with De'Marquise Elkins as the crimes began. Lang, who testified that he ran away and heard, but did not see, the shot that killed the baby, will be tried separately.
Out of the presence of the jury late Wednesday, Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley denied a defense motion for mistrial based on "outrageous government conduct."
Defense attorney Kevin Gough argued, in a brief and directly to the judge, that Brunswick and Glynn County police ignored phone calls from Sandra Holboy and Angie Carter, an ex-wife and a former fiancée of the baby's father, Louis Santiago.
Gough claimed the women's testimony could introduce reasonable doubt that De'Marquise Elkins killed the baby.
On Thursday, after most of the defense witnesses had been examined, Gough asked again whether he could call the women to the witness stand.
Kelley said no.
"The law is quite clear on entering evidence on Santiago," Kelley said. "It must have an inference with defendant's innocence or it must be tied directly to the corpus delicti
. You have not met that burden, Mr. Gough.
"The court finds that hearing Holboy's testimony that Santiago was abusive, addicted to drugs, is irrelevant. Holboy admits she hasn't seen or been in the presence of Santiago for more than 11 years."
The judge added: "Carter had children with Santiago and recorded similar instances of abuse. Her relationship ended over 10 years ago. ... Both reached out on speculation, based on their relationships from 10-15 years ago, and neither placed him with the corpus delicti
of the crime.
"The motion is denied."
Seeking to show the jury that the state might have paid for witness testimony against De'Marquise Elkins, the defense called Argie Brooks to testify Thursday.
Brooks is in prison for armed robbery. His girlfriend, Debra Obley, is Dominique Lang's aunt.
Brooks told the jury that he tipped police about Lang and Elkins as the murder suspects, and received reward money for it.
Gough hammered Brooks until he acknowledged that he had a reason for tipping police.
"If you could get the money, you could get Debra Obley high on crack cocaine, right?" Gough asked.
"Yes," Brooks said.
"For what purpose?"
"So she can talk a little bit more about what happened that day, so she could give a suspect's name," Brooks said.
Gough continued to press Brooks, claiming he had been paid $2,000 of a more than $8,000 reward, and there was a contract to prove it.
Brooks stated repeatedly that he never made a deal with the District Attorney's Office to testify against Elkins.
"Elkins is the gift that keeps on giving, right?" Gough asked.
"I don't know how this works," Brooks replied. "I didn't do this for any money, because when there is someone shoots a baby in the face, this is coming from the heart."
Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson objected: "Your honor, Mr. Gough continues to impeach his own witness. The confrontation clause is for his client, Elkins. Mr. Gough brought him in here as his witness."
Gough shot back: "He was called as witness for the defense, yes, but he is a bought and paid witness, paid by the state. We can't even talk to him unless he's on the witness stand. They can go down and give him $8,000 and get the information they want."
Louis Santiago took the stand shortly after the lunch recess. Santiago said he found out about his son's death after going to a Wal-Mart with a friend.
"At 10:20 a.m. I got a phone call from a detective on cell phone," Santiago testified.
"I ran, left everything - juices, snacks - for Antonio, ran out to the car."
Santiago said that when he saw Sherry West in the hospital emergency room she screamed, "They shot our baby! They shot our baby!"
Santiago went to see his son at a funeral home.
"Me and my neighbor went down to see him and they brought him. I unzipped the body bag and I cut off a lock of his hair and put it in an envelope," he said.
Santiago is being held on a stalking charge West brought against him. He has a prior criminal conviction for stalking in McIntosh County.
Though Santiago, who lives across the street from West, said he was at the Wal-Mart when he son was killed, Gough questioned that time frame.
Santiago said he'd left home at 9:10 a.m. with friends to go to Wal-Mart. If that was so, Gough said, how did he fail to see, even in passing, the killing of his son?
"At 9:10 a.m. you were literally a half of a block from where your son was shot," Gough told Santiago.
The defense rested late Thursday afternoon.
Closing arguments were to begin at 9 a.m. today (Friday).