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Court upholds murder conviction of ex-East Point cop in Taser death

Former East Point Police Sgt. Marcus Eberhart (right) was found guilty of felony murder in the April 2014 stun-gun death of Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. His co-defendant, former police Cpl. Howard Weems (left) was found guilty of lesser charges.
Former East Point Police Sgt. Marcus Eberhart (right) was found guilty of felony murder in the April 2014 stun-gun death of Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. His co-defendant, former police Cpl. Howard Weems (left) was found guilty of lesser charges.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the murder conviction against an ex-East Point police officer for fatally tasing a handcuffed suspect.

Former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart's murder conviction in 2016 was a rarity in Georgia, where district attorneys have often unsuccessfully tried to prosecute cases in which suspects died at the hands of police. Eberhart is serving a life sentence.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Michael Boggs said the evidence supported the conviction and that "the jury was free to reject (Eberhart's) claims of justification and accident."

On April 11, 2014, Eberhart and his co-defendant, former Cpl. Howard Weems, responded with other officers to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment where Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. was with his girlfriend.

A witness photographed former East Point police officers, Cpl. Howard Weems and Sgt. Marcus Eberhart, as they tried to get Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. to stand, not long before Towns died after being repeatedly zapped with a Taser in 2014. (Photo provided by attorney Chris Stewart)
A witness photographed former East Point police officers, Cpl. Howard Weems and Sgt. Marcus Eberhart, as they tried to get Gregory Lewis Towns Jr. to stand, not long before Towns died after being repeatedly zapped with a Taser in 2014. (Photo provided by attorney Chris Stewart)

When an officer tried to handcuff Towns, he took off running into the woods. After Towns fell, an officer caught up to him and handcuffed him.

When told to get up, Towns stumbled and fell again, saying he was too tired. By this time, Eberhart had arrived, and he told Weems, “If he don’t want to get up, tase his (expletive),” witnesses said.

Former East Point police officer Marcus Eberhart was sentenced to life in prison in the tasing death of Gregory Towns.
Former East Point police officer Marcus Eberhart was sentenced to life in prison in the tasing death of Gregory Towns.

Credit: � 2018 Cox Media Group.

Credit: � 2018 Cox Media Group.

When Towns tried to get up but collapsed again, Weems applied a Taser on Towns’ stomach, and Eberhart applied his Taser as well. (Weems, who was also charged, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.)

By the time paramedics arrived, Towns’ heart had stopped beating. He was later pronounced dead at an emergency room.