WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ga. - Helen Gilbert was relieved to hear the Georgia Supreme Court just overturned a judge's ruling that granted immunity to the three Washington County deputies charged with the murder of her brother, Eurie Lee Martin.
“Truthfully, I was in doubt about the justice system because a lot of times it does not work, but I was truly grateful at the decision and that this will be reversed,” said Helen Gilbert, as she stood with other Martin family members in front of the Georgia Supreme Court.
Loved ones said Martin was on a 30-mile walk from Milledgeville to Sanderville on a blistery hot day when he was approached by Washington County Deputies Henry Lee Copeland, Rhett Scott, and Michael Howell. The deputies were responding to a 911 call regarding a suspicious man walking along a rural road who had wandered into a man's yard.
Authorities have said the deputies had no knowledge of Martin's history of mental health issues when he ignored the deputies' requests to stop.
The deputies shot Martin with a Taser to get him to the ground, but video shows Martin was able to get up and walk away from the deputies.
Attorneys for the 58-year-old man said Martin died in the grass after he was hit with a Taser 15 times in five minutes.
All three deputies were immediately fired and subsequently indicted on murder charges. But a judge granted immunity from prosecution, citing self-defense. Attorneys said Martin was unarmed, mentally unstable, and never posed a threat.
“This is about the humanity of a man who deserved to live and walk and enjoy his life and liberty. This is something that should trouble Georgians very deeply,” said Mawuli Davis, one of two attorneys hired to represent the Martin family in 2017.
Attorney Francys Johnson, who provided the dash cam and other cell phone video to FOX 5 News, said the deputies’ murder trial could set a precedent for how the justice system handles issues of immunity from prosecution for law enforcement officers.
“This case really drives through the heart of criminal justice reforms and was put in place by a Republican governor (Nathan Deal) with support from Democrats who don't just back the blue, but back the red, white and blue,” said Johnson.
The Supreme Court ruling means the deputies’ murder trial could begin next spring or summer.
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