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Eleby proclaims innocence; jury gets case

Closing arguments were completed Monday morning in the murder trial of Lakievius Eleby. UPDATE: After three hours and two minutes of deliberation, the jury was given the option of going to supper for an hour and returning or returning Tuesday morning. The jury chose to come back Tuesday morning. *************** ©The Herald Gazette/ This information may not be reprinted, broadcast or distributed electronically in any form or fashion without express consent. For reprint permission, e-mail *************** The jury was to be charged at 1:15 p.m and then begin deliberations. UPDATE: The jury got the case at 1:38 p.m. Bettis began her defense Monday morning with a motion for a directed verdict which Judge Wilson denied. She called only four witnesses. Shameik Spinks: Spinks, who pleaded guilty in the case Feb. 27 and was sentenced to life in prison, testified Eleby was not at the crime scene and played no role in the murder. During cross-examination, Johnston hammered Spinks on saying at the time of his plea that he, Bryce Smith and “some dude named Pooh” committed the crime. Johnston alleged Spinks got the name Pooh from a shirt a woman in the courtroom was wearing that day. Cayce Ingalls, GBI Bettis took Ingalls back through some of the text messages in the case, still contending investigators should have gone after Walker and Williams. Victoria Byrd: Byrd testifed she was Eelby’s girlfriend at the time of the crime and that he talked to her on the phone for 45 minutes. She said Eleby sounded sleepy and went to sleep twice on the phone during the conversation. She said he told her nothing about planning a robbery. “He would have told me. We discussed personal things like robberies,” Byrd testified, causing raised eyebrows among the jurors. Brandon Lawrence: Lawrence testifed he lived at Westchester Heights and was in Forsyth the night of the killing. He said he got calls from Bryce Smith and Derrick Wilkerson who were worried about his whereabouts. He said he had talked to Eleby at about 4 a.m and that Eleby sounded relaxed. He said Eleby was not a troublemaker and he did not think he was involved. Lakievius Eleby: Eleby chose to take the stand in his own defense despite Judge Wilson’s cautions with the jury not present. He said he sold marijuana and helped his dad do landscaping to make money. He said Bussey sold higher grade marijuana and Bussey sold to Gordon students while he sold mostly to white people. Eleby appeared agitated on the stand. He said a “lick” could be any form of making money: selling drugs, gambling or a robbery. He said Bryce Smith admitted to him in a holding cell that the police put Smith up to fingering him. He said if he is found not guilty he will get his GED, find a trade and raise his daughter who is now in DFACS custody. On cross-examination, Johnston lit into Eleby. ”Your friends were tired of hanging out with a punk. You couldn’t handle the college boys down the street. That’s why you got Spinks to get your back. You knew he wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger. You wanted to put those college boys face down in the floor in front of their women and rob them. You knew they wouldn’t call the police because they never did before,” Johnston alleged. Eleby denied Johnston’s assertion that marijuana found in his home at the time of his arrest was stolen from Bussey as he lay mortally wounded. Bettis closing argument: Bettis attacked both the prosecution’s case and the prosecutors themselves. She said the state overlooked key evidence and rushed to judgement. She said there was significant evidence Jamarris Williams and Jontravis Walker were in on the murder but were not charged. “They let Bonnie Banks and Demons Bradley have some kind of deal we don’t even know about yet,” Bettis alleged. Of the prosecution team, she said, “As for (assistant district attorney Scott) Johnston, I have never seen more paralyzing arrogance in my life. I am asking for a not guilty verdict. I expected more of the GBI, prosecution and the police than this. They left their officers to hang in the witness chair. I will crawl to every door in this circuit to run as district attorney and prosecute Jontravis Walker and Jamarris Williams. I will put the gun in his hand,” Bettis said. Johnston’s closing argument: The theme of Johnston’s closing was ‘which thugs showed up’. Of Bettis’ personal attack, he said, “I have never been more disrespected in a courtroom in my life. I’ve never railroaded anybody. I’ve never withheld evidence and I’m not withholding evidence from you.” He contended the prosecution had proven Eleby was involved in the case and he got involved for revenge. ”The college boys ran him through the streets like a dog. He needed revenge. He needed to take what they had right there in front of their women. What kind of drug dealer can make it in the world with a reputation as a punk. His friends had told him, ‘If you don’t handle your business, we will.’ So Lakievius decided to handle his business,” Johnston argued.

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