In the last hour Wednesday, 15-year-old Joe Lang took the stand to testify that he saw Elkins and his co-defendant Dominique Lang together at his grandmother’s home in Brunswick after the shooting took place.
Elkins is accused of shooting 13-month-old Antonio Santiago between the eyes in his stroller during the attempted robbery of the toddler’s mother. Elkins faces multiple charges, including murder, but is not eligible for the death penalty because he was not 18 at the time of the shooting.
Dominique Lang is also charged with murder and was allegedly with Elkins during the shooting.
Joe Lang is the cousin of Dominique Lang, also 15, and defense attorneys found his story problematic.
He told the Cobb jury he did not go to school that day.
“I didn’t have nothing to wear,” he said.
He ended up at his grandmother’s house, where he saw his cousin with Elkins. But it’s how he got there that was in question.
In a pre-trial hearing, Joe Lang told the court he woke up at Hopkins Homes, a government housing complex in Brunswick. Wednesday he said he woke up “around the corner” and described the route he took to get from where the home he woke up in to his grandmother’s home.
That route wasn’t from the housing project.
When the inconsistency was pointed out by defense attorney Jonathan Lockwood, Joe Lang told the court the transcript from the previous hearing was inaccurate.
He was “pretty sure” he woke up at a home not at the government housing community and then told Lockwood he was “certain.”
That didn’t sit well with Lockwood.
When asked why he changed his story from being pretty sure to certain, Joe Lang sat quietly, staring with widely opened eyes directly at Lockwood, who asked the judge four times in a raised voice to order an answer from the witness.
The judge did not give the order. Instead, he opted to end the trial for the day. The trial was moved to Cobb County because of concern about media coverage and a racial divide in Brunswick.
Co-defendant describes murder
Dominique Lang said he met Elkins at Glynn Villas, another government housing project, the morning of the shooting. There is no indication the pair knew each other before that day.
He followed Elkins into the south portion of the city toward a neighborhood lined with oak trees and considered one of Brunswick’s better communities.
He was walking behind Elkins when Elkins approached a woman with a stroller and asked for her purse, Dominique Lang said.
“He slapped her with the gun,” Dominique Lang said.
Elkins then threatened the baby, Dominique Lang said.
“He came around the stroller and she came around the other way and he shot,” he said. “I was in panic mode. I didn’t move.”
Both Antonio and his mother, Sherry West, were shot, though the mother lived and is expected to testify.
Attorneys took the time before the jury entered the courtroom and their lunch break to argue whether or not an identification made to police by Dominique Lang should stand. Three other witnesses pointed to Elkins sitting next to his attorneys and his mother in the courtroom and said he’s the man they told police they saw with Dominique Lang the day of the shooting.
The defense said the way police got Dominique Lang to identify Elkins is problematic.
He told police Elkins was wearing a red sweatshirt, black pants and was black. Dominique Lang provided no other distinguishing characteristics. Calling Elkins “black” was a reference, he said, to Elkins’ skin tone being darker than his own.
A quiet, meek Dominique Lang wearing a Cobb County jail jumpsuit with shackles on his hands and feet watched as defense attorney Kevin Gough played a video of his testimony the day of the shooting.
“That might be De’Marquise,” he said in the video. A few minutes later he told police, “That’s him. He did it. That looks like him.”
When Gough asked why he pointed out the photo so quickly, he said because he wanted to go home.
“I was scared they were going to get me for something I didn’t do,” he said.
Gough said the photo lineup presented to Dominique Lang led him to the answer police wanted to hear. The lineup of six photographs showed all black men with five wearing black T-shirts.
Elkins was wearing a gray shirt in the photo.
Still, prosecuting attorneys argued Dominique Lang had ample time to see Elkins because the two were allegedly together during the shooting.
Defense questions mother’s credibility
It took defense attorneys five hours to poke holes in the investigation conducted by the first police officer to the crime scene, criminal investigator Angela Smith.
West chose Elkins after looking at a photo lineup for about 20 seconds, Smith said.
“She said ‘I know that was him,’” Smith said. “I will never forget those bushy eyebrows.”
Smith said she had never seen someone identify a suspect that quickly.
“Her statements at the scene were all over the place,” said Gough, the lead defense attorney.
West was a victim, Smith said, and had reason to be upset.
Gough called into question West’s medical history and diagnoses of bipolar disorder, paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder. He told the court she was taking Vicodin, a potent prescription pain medication, because she had been in a car accident.
“I won’t give in to the drug trade in this s--- city,” West told police, according to Gough.
Smith didn’t investigate if West was on drugs during the shooting.
Gough maintains West wasn’t adequately considered as a suspect. Her 18-year-old son’s shooting death in New Jersey years before her toddler’s death was not investigated. Police did not search for a gun when they responded to the scene of the toddler’s shooting death.
“My thought was I have an unresponsive child on the ground that I gave my attention to,” Smith said.
Police originally looked for a child between 5 and 6 years of age and one whom West said was 15.
Gough also accused Smith of inappropriately interviewing West because Brunswick City Manager Bill Weeks was present during questioning.
“What part of your training says bring the city manager along who is not even a part of your department when conducting an identification with your only eyewitness?”