EAST POINT, Ga. — A jury on Friday found one of two former East Point police officers guilty of felony murder in the death of a man they were taking into custody, who was already handcuffed.
Former Sgt. Marcus Eberhart, convicted of felony murder, and former Cpl. Howard Weems, convicted of lesser charges, were indicted last year, accused of killing Gregory Towns, 24, in 2014 by repeatedly Tasing him.
The jury found Eberhart guilty on all counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault. He is now facing life in prison. Eberhart was immediately handcuffed and placed in custody.
Weems was found not guilty of felony murder, and not guilty of aggravated assault, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and violation of oath of office. Weems will remain free on bond.
Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
On April 11, 2014, the officers responded to a domestic violence cal. Towns ran away from officers when they arrived. After they caught and handcuffed him, Towns claimed he was too tired to walk to the officers’ patrol car, as instructed. According to the charges, Eberhart and Weems then used their Tasers on Towns repeatedly in an effort to get him to comply. Towns became unresponsive and died a short time later.
Closing arguments were held Thursday in the trial.
The prosecution said that the Taser use was a violation of policy; Towns was handcuffed at the time and Towns was having a hard time breathing when stunned. The state argued that repeatedly Tasing was enough to kill him.
The defense argued that Towns’ death was actually caused by an illness, a rare sickle cell trait, that had nothing to do with the Tasing. They also argued officers were within their rights to Tase him, because he’d been non-compliant, he’d run from police and the Taser was the only way to get him to follow police commands.
The jury returned the verdict at the end of its first full day of deliberations.