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Judge calls man ‘soulless’ for pouring boiling water on gay couple

Before sentencing Martin Blackwell to 40 years in prison, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk told him how he felt about the boiling-water assault on a gay couple.

“You were soulless, malicious and a violent person on February 12,” Newkirk said.

That was the day Blackwell found his girlfriend’s son and a friend in bed together, both asleep after working overnight shifts. Blackwell, 48, didn’t approve of the gay relationship. So as Anthony Gooden and Marquez Tolbert slept, Blackwell found a large pot under the kitchen sink, filled it with water and boiled it, according to prosecutors. Then, Blackwell poured the scalding water on the men, causing serious burns requiring lengthy hospital stays and surgeries.

“You had so many outs, you had so many outs where the voice of reason could’ve taken over,” Newkirk said.

For example, Blackwell could have added ice to the water instead of boiling it, the judge said.

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“They might’ve been mad, but they wouldn’t have been hurt,” Newkirk said.

It took the jury about 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon to convict Blackwell on all 10 counts, including aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Blackwell showed no emotion when the verdict was read, nor when he was sentenced.

But outside the courtroom, there were hugs and sighs of relief for both Gooden, 24, and Tolbert, 21, who have remained friends through their ordeal.

“I’m ecstatic,” Tolbert said. “I think justice has been served.”

Blackwell was dating Gooden’s mother, Kim Foster, who had moved into her sister’s apartment in College Park with her children. Blackwell, a long-distance truck driver, would often stay there when he was in town, prosecutors said.

Gooden had recently told his family he was gay, and his family supported him. But Blackwell did not.

When Foster’s teenage daughters came home in the afternoon on Feb. 12, Blackwell gave them money to buy something to eat to get them out of the apartment, the girls testified. Then, Blackwell went to the kitchen, filled a pot with water and waited for it to boil, prosecutors said.

Gooden, who was burned on 45 percent of his body, testified that he never saw Blackwell coming.

After the attack, Tolbert was jumping up and down in agonizing pain, assistant district attorney Fani Willis said. Blackwell then walked toward Tolbert, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him through the apartment and out the door, she said.

Both Tolbert and Gooden had disfiguring burns requiring numerous skin grafts. Gooden spent nearly a month in the hospital, including two weeks in a medically induced coma, and Tolbert spent 10 days in the hospital.

In closing arguments, Blackwell’s attorney argued he wasn’t being hateful or malicious when he poured boiling water on a same-sex couple as they slept.

“It’s one act,” attorney Monique Walker told the jury. “It caused injury. It was distasteful, it was disrespectful. But it was not deadly. It was not intentional.”

The prosecutor painted a starkly different picture. Blackwell did intend to hurt Gooden and Tolbert, and was methodical and malicious, Willis told the jury.

“You don’t have the right to hurt because you don’t like how they live their life,” Willis told the jurors.

Last week, Blackwell had agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors, but decided against it after the judge said he would order him to serve 30 years of a 40-year sentence. He has been in jail since his Feb. 13 arrest and was indicted in March. Blackwell was re-handcuffed after his sentencing Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a very heinous crime,” Franklin Engram, assistant DA, said after the sentencing. “We’re just glad we were able to bring these families justice.”

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