ATLANTA — An Augusta man convicted in the 2007 drive-by shooting of 24-year-old Nicholas Martel Carpenter is asking the state Supreme Court to grant him a new murder trial.
According to prosecutors, Denzel Laquan Ward, then 16, shot Carpenter while driving his mother’s car by the Platinum Club parking lot after being kicked out of the Barton Village club for fighting. Carpenter hadn’t been involved in the fight and was a bystander in the parking lot, investigators said.
Ward was sentenced to life in prison, plus five years.
Two friends who were riding with Ward testified that he was the shooter.
Ward’s appellate attorney, Brian Steel, said a third passenger, Karmbi Young, was prepared to accuse one of the other men but didn’t when it was time for the trial because Young’s attorney advised him not to incriminate himself. Young was to face the same prosecutor the next week on murder charges in a separate killing.
Steel told the high court justices that Ward’s trial attorney should have requested immunity for Young so that nothing he said could be used against him in his own murder trial.
Assistant District Attorney Madonna Little said Young would have been unlikely to rely on immunity while facing his own prosecutor. She said the trial attorney knew the judge would be unlikely to grant immunity.
“From his perspective, it would have been a fruitless motion, and so it cannot be considered evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel,” she told the justices.
Steel argued that the judge should not have told the jury it could be skeptical when considering Ward’s testimony because he had a reason to try to save his own skin.
“I don’t understand that that is a correct statement of the law or why it needs to be given to the jury,” Steel said.
Little said all of the witnesses changed their story before and during the trial, so there’s no reason the jury would have thought the judge’s instruction applied only to Ward’s testimony. It was also a correct statement of the law, she said, so saying it could do no harm.
The justices will rule in three or four months.