Baby-killing trial update
By MICHAEL HALL
The Brunswick News
MARIETTA – A Brunswick man who stands to receive $10,000 in reward money for providing police with information that led to the arrest of De’Marquise Elkins and Dominique Lang in the murder of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago testified Thursday that he talked to police out of the goodness of his heart.
Argie Brooks, who is incarcerated in the Glynn County jail facing armed robbery charges, testified he has no deal with prosecutors to testify against Elkins, 18, who is on trial for his alleged role in the death of Antonio and wounding of his mother, Sherry West, during an attempted robbery March 21. Lang, 15, will be tried separately in Glynn County because he has testified against Elkins.
Brooks appeared relaxed but a little annoyed during questioning by Brunswick Judicial Circuit Public Defender Kevin Gough, who suggested he talked to police to clear his conscience in matters unrelated to the murder.
“I don’t even know how that came about. I wasn’t worried about it,” Brooks said of receiving $2,000 in reward money already and the possibility of receiving $8,000 later.
Gough’s questioning took on a hostile tone early and prompted Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson to object that Gough was improperly asking his own witness leading questions that would suggest the answer he wanted.
Gough fired back, saying that Brooks should have been a witness for the prosecution, but prosecutors were afraid of what he might say in court. He did not clarify what Brooks might say that would hurt the prosecution’s case.
Although Gough contended that Brooks took $1,000 from the Brunswick Police Department and $1,000 from the Glynn County Police Department to share with his roommate, Debra Obley, Lang’s aunt, Brooks maintained that he came forward as a concerned citizen after overhearing a conversation with Obley that he though indicated Lang may have been involved.
“I was doing this from the heart,” Brooks said.
Without being asked about it, Brooks told Gough, who characterized the payment as snitch money at a pretrial hearing, that if Gough were on the other side of the case, the money would have been seen as a good thing. “If it was on the other end, it would be help money, not snitch money,” Brooks said.
Gough twice asked for a mistrial during the examination. One was denied and Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge Stephen Kelley said he would hear Gough’s arguments on the second Thursday afternoon.
Prior to Brooks’ testimony, the defense called Heather Kleider, a cognitive psychologist at Georgia State University, who testified that the photo lineups police showed Antonio’s mother, Sherry West, and pastor Wilfredo Calix-Flores, from which they identified Elkins, were improperly suggestive.
“I would say it’s suggestive, yes, in that not everybody is meeting that description,” Kleider said of what she thought were significant dissimilarities among photos in the lineups.
Louis Santiago, Antonio’s father, was expected to testify Thursday afternoon.
Elkins is on trial for murder, cruelty to children, aggravated assault and attempted armed robbery for his alleged role in the attack near the intersection of Ellis and London streets, in the Old Town section of Brunswick. He is also facing charges of aggravated assault and armed robbery for his alleged attack on Calix-Flores March 11 in the 1700 block of Norwich Street, Brunswick.
Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge Stephen Kelley moved the trial to Marietta in an attempt to make it more likely to find jurors who had not formed opinions on the case that has inflamed Glynn County, first in the death of a baby and later by aggressive defense tactics.
Elkins could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted. Prosecutors could not seek a death penalty because he was 17 years old at the time of the murder.