BRUNSWICK -- Glynn County has approved the spending of $162,000 for the trial in Marietta, Ga., of 18-year-old De’Marquise Elkins and his mother, Karimah, in the March shooting death of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago.
Jury selection begins Monday, but the county may have to pay to move another high-profile case to another county, the death penalty murder trial of Guy Heinze Jr., who is charged with beating his father and seven others to death.
Heinze’s lawyer, Newell Hamilton Jr., has never asked for a change of venue in the case. He told Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett Friday that outfall from defense tactics in the Elkins case may hurt the reputations of all defense lawyers.
Heinze’s trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection next month followed by the presentation of evidence in mid-October. A request for a change of venue could again delay the trial that has been dragged out in the August 2009 beating deaths.
But for now, the county is footing the bill for the trial of two of the five people accused in Antonio Santiago’s death and concealing evidence.
The toddler was shot in the face as he sat in a stroller pushed by his mother, Sherry West, who refused Elkins’ demand for her purse and was shot in the leg herself, an indictment says. Elkins is also charged with aggravated assault in the wounding of a minister in another attempted robbery on a Brunswick Street weeks earlier.
Karimah Elkins is charged with providing a false alibi for her son and throwing a pistol in a saltwater pond. Police say the .22-caliber pistol was used to kill Antonio and wound the minister.
Publicity about Antonio’s death was so massive that Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley granted Circuit Public Defender Kevin Gough’s motion to move the trial out of town.
Kelley picked Cobb County and the Glynn County Commission approved county Finance Director Tonya Miller’s request Thursday night for an additional $162,000 for “felony murder cases.”
Miller said the extra money is for the “murder case up in Cobb County.”
“We could ask for more,’’ she said. “It could get quite expensive.”
Gough’s statements on the case began hours after De’Marquise Elkins and Dominique Lang, 15, were arrested on murder charges. Gough asserted Elkins was 1,000 percent innocent.
There is now a gag order in case, but the trial has been played out in the reporting of defense motions and other documents.
In court motions and hearings, Gough has gone after a number of people as being involved in the child’s death, including West and the boy’s father, Louis Santiago. He has even asked Kelley to compel the Glynn County police to go back to the crime scene to “complete their investigation” by checking the storm sewers for the gun that was actually used to kill the toddler and to wound his mother.
He argued that he should be allowed to tell the jurors of witnesses’ crimes dating back 10 years or more. During a recent hearing, he asked Louis Santiago if there had been a life insurance policy on his son.
There are three other defendants in the case who will get their own trials in Glynn County.
De’Marquise Elkins’ sister, Sabrina Elkins, is charged with tampering with evidence. The indictment said she was a party to throwing the pistol in the pond.
His aunt, Katrina Elkins, also is charged with providing a false alibi for him.
Dominique Lang still faces murder and other charges, and the prosecution will call him as an eyewitness to the crime.
The $162,000 will pay toward getting him and other witnesses to Marietta for trial along with 15 to 20 Glynn County police officers, sheriff’s deputies, staff from the District Attorney’s Office and Cobb County court personnel and deputies.
Lawyers have estimated the trial could take all of next week and at least part of the following week.