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No verdict in week-long murder trial

By Kathy Jefcoats

Jurors deliberated about three hours Saturday without reaching a verdict in the week-long trial of three Atlanta residents charged with murder and armed robbery in the shooting death of a Hampton man Oct. 20.

They are to return this morning to continue deliberating in Henry Superior Court. Seboris Brooks, Antwan Ball and Komeika Clark face multiple charges in the death of Luis Sutton, 30, during an alleged robbery gone wrong at a Stockbridge home. Brooks attorney Michelle Clark, no relation to defendant Clark, delivered an impassioned closing argument Saturday morning in favor of her client. "If he got bit by a dog, where's the blood? If it's there, test it, prove it," she said. "You can't because it didn't happen. Test the blood because it's there if he was there but it's not because he wasn't. Seboris Brooks did not take this man's life."

Clark reminded the jury that Brooks cooperated with police, gave blood samples and signed a release for his medical records. Forensic evidence experts testified for the state that all the blood samples taken from the death scene failed to match any of the defendants, despite the contention that Brooks was bitten by a dog inside the house.

None of the suspects' fingerprints were found in the house. But the state's star witness may well have been Byron Ferguson, a felon with a long history of theft and fraud convictions serving 15 months for his most recent arrest. Ferguson shared a cell with Brooks in the Clayton County Jail and told police that Brooks gave him details of the shooting.

Ferguson said he has less than a year to live and wants to die with a clear spirit. It was his testimony that Flint Assistant District Attorney Tom McBerry recalled during his closing argument, outlining 20 points of Ferguson's statements that were corroborated by one or more of the defendants. "He had all these details about this case but he was in jail in Clayton County when this happened," said McBerry, the inference being that the source of the facts was Brooks.

The case against the three alleges that defendant Clark met Sutton, known on the street as Tack, and learned he sold drugs out of the house rented by Derrick Bailey. Prosecutors say she told her cousin, Ball, and his cousin, Brooks, about drugs and money to be found inside the home and planned a robbery.

McBerry alleges that Clark went to the home first and allowed Brooks inside. Although reportedly armed with a 9 mm, Brooks found a fight on his hands with the physically larger Sutton, said McBerry.

When the two men struggled, a pit bulldog named Spike bit Brooks, causing him to shoot the dog, prosecutors allege. Ball, waiting in his car, heard the shots and rushed inside the house, armed with his own weapon, possibly a .44-caliber handgun. Brooks and Ball both reportedly fired at Sutton, hitting him once in the left side.

A doctor testified that he likely died about 15 minutes later. Ferguson testified that Brooks told him he was confident that Ball fired the death shot and that police would find nothing to connect him to the scene. The state's case drew heavily from statements Brooks and Clark reportedly made to cellmates. Ball, the only defendant who is married with children and a steady job, was not in jail until his January arrest for the shooting.

However, he allegedly told police that he drove Brooks to the house so Brooks could buy marijuana. Ball said he sat in the car and waited while Brooks went in and left only when Brooks exited the house and got back in the car, carrying a duffel bag. Henry County police Detective Wayne Bender said the trio got away with a reported $20,000 and a quantity of marijuana.

But Slemons and attorney Clark said their clients were not at the house. Slemons asked the jury to view his client as an individual while they deliberated. "There is no ?they,'" he said. "I represent Komeika Clark. The process is simple, the answer is hard. Don't park your common sense at the door." Slemons said his client was arrested because she cooperated with police. "She came forward, she talked to police and she finds herself here," said Slemons. "There are a lot of discrepancies and no proof. There is absolutely no proof my client was at the house."

Defendant Clark was fingered as a suspect when her sometime sex partner, Terrence Tyler, told police she had knowledge of the shooting. She reportedly told Tyler "my folks done that," referring to Ball and Brooks. But McBerry told jurors that if a conspiracy exists, all three are guilty of the charges as if each participated fully in all the allegations.

Thornton said no such conspiracy involving his client exists.

"There is no evidence of any agreement that my client entered into," he said. "The evidence that exists actually exonerates my client."

After almost two hours of deliberating Saturday, the jury sent out a note asking about a letter defendant Clark got in jail from a friend of Sutton. The letter, written by Amelia Cloud, was not entered into evidence and Judge Hal Craig told jurors they'd have to rely on their memory of her testimony.

The letter reportedly asks Clark why she was involved in the shooting.

Clark did not answer the letter but her cellmate, Robin Nelson, did. Nelson testified that Clark gave her details about the shooting, which she passed on to Cloud and police.