A DeKalb County jury Tuesday afternoon was deciding the fate of alleged robbing crew leader Michael Blaine after hearing closing arguments in his murder trial.
By Marcus K. Garner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A DeKalb County jury is to resume deliberations Wednesday morning on the fate of alleged robbing crew leader Michael Blaine, charged with the deaths of two men.
Blaine, 31, is accused of shooting and killing Eric Banks and Yusef Ellis during what prosecutors described as an 11-month-long robbing spree.
Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday, then deliberated until 5 p.m. before being sent home. They are scheduled to return to the DeKalb courthouse at 9 a.m. Wednesday to resume deliberations.
In addition to the two counts of murder, Blaine is charged with racketeering, three counts of kidnapping, and a litany of burglary and armed robbery counts.
Defense attorneys Tuesday challenged the evidence and testimony given by witnesses the prosecutors presented.
“How can you have four armed robberies, two alleged murders, and they don’t show you the gun?” defense attorney Herbert Adams Jr. asked the jury. “They [prosecutors] have the gun. It was found at the scene.”
Defense co-counsel Gerald Griggs characterized the case as “the lies and machinations of murderers, thieves and dope boys” when he suggested none of the witnesses prosecutors put on the stand were trustworthy.
“The state’s evidence is based on the words of convicted felons,” Griggs said. “None of them got their stories straight. The state is putting their trust in people who lie for a living.”
Among the witnesses were members of the crew Blaine allegedly assembled in 2005 and 2006 to hit the homes of believed drug dealers and wealthy people in Dekalb County and elsewhere in metro Atlanta.
Tori Moore, Darron Batteast, Cara Johnson, Curtis James Frezell, Jamal Callaway and Walter Landers, all convicted co-defendants, each admitted from the witness stand at some point during the two-week trial to participating in Blaine’s schemes.
Moore, who was at one time Blaine’s girlfriend, and Landers testified to helping or being around the defendant before, during or after two robberies in October and December 2005. The second robbery ended with Banks’ shooting death.
Moore, who drove the getaway car in the December robbery and is now serving a 10-year sentence for burglary and racketeering, told jurors Blaine said to her, “We left that [dude] leaking.”
Adams said those witnesses all had something to gain from their testimony.
“Walter Landers is facing 200 years in jail,” Adams said. “Tori Moore … doesn’t want to go to jail for 100 years. She will say anything to help herself.”
But Geary reminded the jury that Blaine’s alleged victims – those who weren’t admitted or convicted criminals – also identified Blaine as being involved in robberies, including Dahanajay and Bandana Gupta, whom prosecutors said were kidnapped and forced to give the robbing crew money from their Citgo convenience store, and LaMonica Johnson, whose home was invaded.
“LaMonica Johnson sat there and told you that was the man who put a gun to her head,” Geary said, pointing at Blaine. “Why is her testimony not worthy to believe? Because she was married to a former drug dealer?”
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence F. Seeliger dismissed the jury late Tuesday afternoon to begin deliberations.
If found guilty, Blaine faces a prison sentence of life without parole.
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