MARIETTA, Ga. — Attorneys defending a Brunswick man accused of shooting to death a baby in a stroller suffered a defeat Wednesday when the boy charged with being along with the shooter testified about the details of the crime.
The jury didn’t hear any of the testimony because defense attorneys had requested a hearing outside their presence in hopes of convincing Judge Stephen Kelley to disallow the boy’s identification of alleged shooter De’Marquise Elkins, 18, made during a police interrogation. After hearing the testimony, Kelley ruled the jury can be told of the identification.
The boy, Dominique Lang, 14, wore a prison jumpsuit and shackles as he slowly entered the courtroom in Cobb County Superior Court where the trial was moved because of pre-trial news coverage. Elkins didn’t move or look up as Dominique walked past.
The boy appeared nervous and disoriented as he climbed to the witness stand.
Most of his answers were one or two words until he described the events of March 21. He said he and Elkins had been acquainted some time before that day but not close friends when they met up less than an hour before the shooting.
Dominique was walking down Ellis Street toward his great grandmother’s home, and Elkins was walking the same way when they came upon a woman, Sherry West, pushing a baby in a stroller, 13-month-old Antonio Santiago.
“He asked her for her purse,” Dominique said. “... He kept asking for her purse. She kept refusing.”
Elkins then pulled a gun from his pocket and struck West with it and then threatened the baby with the gun, according to Dominique. The struggle continued around the stroller when Elkins shot the baby and then fired twice more.
Earlier testimony had showed that West was struck once in the leg and once on her left ear. The baby died instantly.
The boys fled to Dominique’s great grandmother’s house where Elkins made phone calls seeking a ride, eventually getting one with Dominique’s great aunt, Debra Obley.
Elkins’ attorney Jonathan Lockwood hurled repeated questions at Dominique to try to demonstrate inconsistencies between what he told police and his testimony. Dominique admitted he didn’t like Lockwood and that he was giving terse replies because he was eager to get off the witness stand and return home, or at least back to the Youth Development Center in Savannah where he is in custody.
At one point, the judge said even he was confused by the questions.
Dominique will be tried separately for murder, but today he tried to make clear his involvement was limited.
“I didn’t shoot no baby,” he said.
Kelley ruled that the jury could weigh Dominique’s credibility but that the photo identification was allowable.
“His opportunity to observe was quite extensive,” the judge said, adding a recap of Dominique’s rundown of the events. “It reduces the likelihood that there would be any misidentification.”
When the jury was present, the testimony included the cross examination of Brunswick Police Detective Angela Smith.
Defense attorney Kevin Gough got her to acknowledge that West was not investigated as a suspect even though an older child had died earlier in New Jersey, that she suffers from multiple mental disorders and that her poverty gave her a motive for murdering her child for the life-insurance payout.
West’s behavior after the shooting should have raised the suspicions of investigators, he said. But the detective replied that under the circumstances, the behavior wasn’t odd.
“She had just observed her baby shot in her presence and she was shot herself,” Smith said.
A big clue to West’s precarious mental state should have been when she wet herself before being questioned at police headquarters, Gough said. Smith replied that it had never happened before in her experience, so she had no reason to consider it a sign of possible guilt.
They also put Dominique’s great aunt Debra Obley on the stand to recount when she gave a ride to Elkins.
“I asked him why he was looking around like somebody was following us,” she saidl. “... The way he was acting was kind of strange.”
When she dropped Elkins off at the Manor House apartments, she noticed the outline of a gun through his pants and the tip of it sticking out. On cross examination, she didn’t mention the gun to the police the first time she was questioned nor did she mention seeing Dominique the morning of the shooting at the residence.
“I might not have told the truth about one thing, but I told the truth,” she said.
Prosecutors have another 30 witnesses still to testify before the defense puts on its case. One witness they hope to present is Dominique’s grandmother so they can ask her where she got the $23,000 she gave a lawyer to defend the boy.