By Linda Looney-Bond
In Clayton County Superior Court on Tuesday, lawyers for the prosecution and the defense began the legal tug-of-war that will decide the fate of 24-year-old Breylon Wendell Garland, a former Morehouse College student on trial in the torture-murder of a fellow student.
Garland, of College Park, is accused of participating in the 2006 beating and stabbing of fellow Morehouse student, Carlnell Walker, 23, that eventually ended in Walker's death.
According to prosecutors, Garland and three co-defendants tortured Walker throughout the night on June 21 2006, at Walker's Riverdale home on Glenshire Court.
"They were looking for money," said Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green, during opening arguments. Green is prosecuting the case, along with Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers and Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco. Walker, according to prosecutors, had apparently told several people he was expecting a settlement from a March 2006 automobile crash.
Green told the jury that after torturing Walker, Garland and his co-defendants doused Walker with a [flammable] liquid, threatened to set him on fire, bound, and gagged him, then "threw" him in the trunk of a car in his garage, leaving him there to die.
"He was put in that trunk ... by none other than Breylon Garland," Green said, pointing at the defendant. "It wasn't until almost three weeks later, July 8, that his body was discovered," Green said. "The body was decomposed. It had a broken tooth from all of the trauma. It had stab wounds. It was infested with maggots and larvae."
Co-defendant Miles Allen, 24, was convicted Aug. 28 of participating in Walker's murder. Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield sentenced Allen to two life terms in prison, plus 70 years. Benefield also is presiding in the Breylon Garland trial.
Co-defendants, Keith Roberts and Theodore Holliman, will be tried separately, later, according to Green.
"They were all students at Morehouse College, with the exception of Theodore Holliman, also known as Raheem," Green said. "They [the co-defendants] were his classmates, his [Walker's] friends." Green said that, in addition to beating and stabbing Walker: "They also took a knife and cut off his dreads or braids. The person who actually tied him up, right before they put him in that trunk - Breylon Garland."
Green told the jury that two weeks following the incident at Walker's Riverdale home, Walker's body still had not been discovered. He said on July 5, 2006, Garland was talking to a cafeteria worker at Morehouse, and began talking about the incident. "He tells him, 'that's a shame what happened to your boy, Carlnell Walker,'" Green said. "It's then that Breylon Garland says, 'I was there. I know what happened,'" Green told the jury.
The prosecutor said the cafeteria worker told Morehouse police what he'd been told, and Morehouse Police contacted Clayton County Police. According to an application for an arrest warrant filed by Clayton County Police, authorities contacted Garland, and he voluntarily went in to speak with Clayton police.
"Breylon Garland admitted to unlawfully entering into the residence of Carlnell Walker, after one of the co-perpetrators shimmied the front door," police said in the application. The document also says Garland admitted to being present during the "beating and interrogation of the victim."
"Breylon Garland gave a written statement advising that Carlnell Walker was beaten with a hammer, beaten physically by the co-perpetrators, and also stabbed," police said in the application. "Breylon Garland admitted to placing Carlnell Walker's body in the trunk of a vehicle which was parked in the garage," police added, in the arrest warrant application.
Garland's defense attorney, Robert Mack, said during opening arguments Tuesday that his client was forced to participate in the murder. "He [Garland] was a senior at Morehouse at the time. He was working three jobs at the time of the incident," Mack said.
Mack said the murder was planned by the three other co-defendants. He said Garland was preparing to go to work when Allen, Roberts, and Holliman asked him to give them a ride to a location in Riverdale, but did not say where they were going. He said once the men arrived at Walker's home, Keith Roberts threatened Garland. "Mr. Roberts said, 'You're not going anywhere,'" Mack said. "He knows Keith Roberts has a gun," Mack added.
"Then, while he's [Garland's] there, he witnessed all the stuff that happened. Then, he has a gun pulled on him, and he does whatever they told him to do," Mack said.
Mack said the co-defendants forced Garland to place Walker in the trunk of the car following the beating and torture. "They told him, 'If you don't put him in there, get in there with him,'" Mack told the jury.
Garland is charged with 13 counts, including murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, burglary, and armed robbery, according to an indictment. He's being held in the Clayton County Jail.
Testimony in the case is scheduled to continue today.