Three murder trials under way in Clayton County

By Ed Brock

Three men are on trial for murder in Clayton County Superior Court this week.

Adrian Mitchell Taylor, 18, of Forest Park is accused of strangling his friend Joshua Layne Cook to death with a video game controller after an alleged homosexual advance in October 2004.

Prosecutors say 20-year-old Frederick Johnson shook his young daughter to death in July 2003.

And Marcus Lazell Shaw supposedly gunned down a Riverdale store owner in front of his young son in July 2000.

That means things are busy in Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott's office.

“We're handling it but yes, it taxes our office in terms of investigators,” Scott said.

Scott said it is unusual to have so many murder cases at on time but the judges are trying to clear some cases from the calendar before the year ends.

The Johnson case is the furthest along. By Tuesday the jury was hearing testimony from Kimberly Denise Adams, the mother of the 20-month-old victim Jeannettea Adams.

On July 3, 2003 Adams told police that she had brought the baby to the Jacuzzi in her apartment complex in Morrow around 3 a.m. Adams initially told police that Jeannettea had begun swallowing water in the tub and that she had dropped the baby after getting out of the tub, after which she brought the child back to the apartment where Jeannettea died.

However an autopsy later showed that Jeannettea died from “shaken baby syndrome.” Retired Clayton County Police Detective Rick Barnes testified that Johnson had been with the children all day while Adams was at work but initially denied spanking or hitting them too hard.

Later Johnson changed his statement and said that during the day he got angry with Jeannettea after she wet her pants.

“He said I shook her but I didn't think I shook her that hard,” Barnes said. “He said he didn't think he'd shaken her hard enough to hurt her.”

In a video tape of an interview by police shortly after the incident Adams told police that Jeannettea was happy around both her and Johnson. Then she told Johnson's attorney Joseph Roberto that that had been a lie.

“I was just trying to throw it off, throw it off of him,” Adams said.

Testimony in that case is expected to resume today.

During opening statements in the Taylor case attorney Stanley Schoolcraft argued that Taylor was not mentally competent at the time of the killing while Assistant District Attorney Richard Brown said Taylor was trying to avoid responsibility for a well-planned crime.

On Oct. 14, 2004 Taylor was at Cook's house on Elam Road, smoking marijuana and playing video games, according to testimony at Taylor's preliminary hearing last year.

At one point Cook supposedly opened his robe, pulled down his underwear and asked Taylor to perform a sexual act on him. Taylor left the house but returned later, beat Cook with a “bumper jack” and then strangled him with the cord from the video game.

Brown said the fact that Taylor left the house and came back showed he planned the killing and was in his right mind.

“He knew right from wrong,” Brown said.

Schoolcraft said the homosexual pass caused his client to flashback to a previous incident of molestation that occurred to him when he was a child. He said an expert witness for the defense would tell the jury that a person suffering from an episode like the one Taylor experienced on the night of the killing would not know right from wrong.

And the fact that Taylor left the house and came back means nothing, he added.

“That doesn't mean the episode is over, that just intensifies the episode,” Schoolcraft said.

Dr. Kris Sperry, Georgia's chief medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified that Cook was beaten badly on the head.

“(The injuries) were serious enough by themselves but they were not serious enough to cause him to die,” Sperry said.

The blows probably did knock Cook unconscious, Sperry said.

“Then he was strangled with the video game controller unit and that is ultimately what caused his death,” Sperry said.

A jury was still being selected in the Shaw case on Tuesday.