Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of De'Marquise Elkins, a Georgia teenager accused of shooting and killing a 13-month-old boy during a robbery.
Prosecutors are expected to call the baby's mother, Sherry West, to testify. It could be one of the most emotional moments of Elkins’ trial when West recounts the death of her child, Antonio Santiago.
However, defense attorney Jonathan Lockwood painted a different picture of West than that of grieving mother in his opening statement. He told jurors that West and the baby’s father, Luis Santiago, “never wanted the baby,” and he even speculated that they may have orchestrated the baby’s death because they stood to gain from the child’s life insurance policy.
Lockwood also said the bullet found in West's leg and the one found in the baby's head were of different types, and investigators couldn’t determine if they came from the same weapon.
"[There's] no proof the gun was the murder weapon. I don't know if De'Marquise had anything to do with the shooting of the child," Lockwood said.
Prosecutor Jackie Johnson told jurors that the evidence in the case will support West’s story of how the shooting took place. She told reporters that she was pushing her baby in a stroller in broad daylight down a street in the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, on March 21 when two teenagers allegedly tried to mug her.
West said that one of the teens demanded money and pointed a gun at her. The gunman fired at her twice, missing her head and hitting her in the leg. West said the teen then shot her baby, Antonio, in the face.
A second teenager, Dominique Lang, is accused of being Elkins' accomplice. Lang will also take the stand and, according to Johnson, tell a story that's very similar to West's version of events.
Elkins, then 17, is accused of pulling the trigger and is facing multiple charges, including malice and felony murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is facing life in prison. The death penalty is not an option in Elkins' case, because a Georgia law prohibits anyone who is under 18 years old during the commission of a crime from being executed.
Intense media attention and public outrage pushed a judge in the small town to move Elkins’ trial from Glynn County to Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta.
Lang has also pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges against him, which include felony murder. He will go on trial later, separately from Elkins, and he also faces life in prison.
The judge swore in a jury of 12, including three alternates, in Elkins' case earlier on Tuesday. Nine of the jurors are men and six of them are women.