Rhett Scott, left, lifts Eurie Martin's shirt in order to get skin only taser contact as Henry Lee Copeland, center right, and Michael Howell talk to Martin during the 2017 encounter where Martin died.

Rhett Scott, left, lifts Eurie Martin's shirt in order to get skin-only Taser contact as Henry Lee Copeland, center right, and Michael Howell talk to Martin during the 2017 encounter where Martin died. The three former deputies now face murder charges.

Testimony has wrapped up today in the murder trial of three white former Georgia sheriff’s deputies in the 2017 stun gun death of Eurie Martin, a Black man.

Throughout, attorneys for the deputies have claimed the use of stun guns against the 58-year-old Martin was justified because he physically threatened them. But that threat does not appear on the almost hourlong video of the encounter, captured from multiple cameras. The only evidence of that so far has been the claims of the deputies themselves. 

Eyewitnesses called by the defense also said they didn't see Martin become physically threatening. They did agree Martin appeared agitated as he tried to walk away from the deputies.

Rhett Scott, Henry Lee Copeland and Michael Howell are charged with felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, false imprisonment, aggravated assault and an array of other charges in the July 2017 killing.

If convicted, each could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Witness Jasmine Williams described what she saw from her kitchen window in a recording of her 2017 interview with a GBI Investigator. 

“He wasn't fighting, but he wasn't allowing them to handcuff him either,” Williams said. 

Experts for both the state and the defense have testified that absent a reasonable suspicion Eurie Martin committed a crime, it was legal for him to resist being handcuffed. 

But defense attorneys say there was a crime that Scott, Copeland and Howell could have reasonably suspected Martin of committing: illegally walking in the rural, two-lane highway where they encountered him. Martin had been walking down Deepstep Road on his journey from Milledgeville to Sandersville, a trip his sister Helen Gilbert says he made more than once. 

During cross-examination of Howell, prosecutor Kelly Weathers asked him why he never mentioned “illegal walking in the roadway” in the hourlong Georgia Bureau of Investigation interviews conducted the night Martin died. 

“Isn't it true that after Eurie Martin was motionless, on one of the audios of the cameras, you can actually be heard trying to figure out what to charge him with?” Weathers asked Howell. 

“That is correct,” Howell responded. 

“I believe that you say, ‘Hell, yeah, let’s charge him with trespassing,'” Weathers responded.

“I don't remember saying that," Howell said. "I mean, I don't. But those cameras were rolling. If I said it, it's on the camera.”

During direct questioning, Howell described Martin.

“I mean, it was like he could see through you,” Howell said. “What I felt like, like an evil look.”

Before Howell’s testimony, the defense spent a lot of time trying to establish that stun guns are not deadly weapons. 

Its witnesses, presented as experts in the field, were both paid employees for Axon, the company that makes the stun guns actually sold under the brand name Taser. That included Mark Kroll, an adjunct professor of biomedical science at the University of Minnesota. 

During cross-examination, Weathers said Kroll recently made over $100 million after selling Axon stock. That’s on top of the annual salary the company pays him. 

“It was a windfall,” Kroll said. “I didn’t expect it. I don’t think I have to apologize for it.”

Former deputy Rhett Scott was the last to testify and was the last deputy on the scene. He said he didn't know why Martin needed to be subdued and didn't ask why.

Scott was also the first to ask what the charges would be against Martin once he was on the ground. Trespassing was the answer then. Walking in the road is the claim today.

The deputies had originally been granted immunity by a Washington County judge, but the state Supreme Court in November 2020 unanimously overturned that decision, clearing the way for the trial.