By Linda Looney-Bond
Theodore Holliman, one of four co-defendants in the 2006 torture-murder of a Morehouse College student, took the stand in Clayton County Superior Court Thursday, and said Breylon Garland, who is currently on trial in the case, was not forced to participate in the crime.
Garland, 24, of College Park, is accused in the beating, stabbing, and eventual killing of Carlnell Walker, 23, of Riverdale. Garland was a senior at Morehouse at the time of the incident, according to his defense attorney, Robert Mack.
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.
Holliman and a fourth co-defendant, former Morehouse student Keith Roberts, will be tried separately in the case, later, according to Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green.
According to prosecutors, the co-defendants tortured Walker over several hours one night in June, 2006, at Walker's home on Glenshire Court in Riverdale. Prosecutors said the men did not leave until the following morning, after they had bound Walker, gagged him, and dumped him in the trunk of a car in the garage, leaving him there to die.
Walker's body was discovered July 8, when police went to the house in response to a "property check" call, according to an application for an arrest warrant sought by Clayton County Police.
The motive for the attack was money, according to testimony in the case.
On the stand Thursday, Holliman said he and his co-defendants went to Walker's house "to smoke weed, and also because he [Walker] owed Keith [Roberts] some money." Holliman testified that Roberts brought the co-defendants along for back-up, but that Holliman was not aware of a plan to attack Walker.
In a videotaped interview with Clayton County Police, Garland told police that Roberts forced him to participate in the crime. The tape was played in court Wednesday, during Garland's trial. On the tape, Garland said Allen called him on the night of the incident, and said Roberts needed a ride to Riverdale. Garland said he agreed to take him.
Garland told police that he thought they were going to Walker's house to smoke "weed," but when they got there, Allen picked the lock on the front door, and Roberts told him, "You ain't going nowhere," and gestured "like he had a gun."
On the stand Thursday, however, Holliman said Garland willingly participated in the crime.
Holliman told the court that when they arrived at Walker's home, Allen picked the lock, and he and the other co-defendants entered the house.
"Did you miss the part where Keith threatened Breylon with a gun?" Green, the prosecutor, asked Holliman.
"Nobody had a gun," Holliman responded.
"Did anybody threaten Breylon?" Green asked.
"No," Holliman answered.
Holliman said Walker was not at home when they arrived at the house. He said Garland and Roberts left the house for about 45 minutes "to get blunts ... cigarette paper for weed."
He said in the meantime, Walker came home.
Holliman said the lights were off, and Allen punched Walker in the head, knocking him down. Holliman said Allen continued to beat Walker, and that by the time Garland and Roberts returned to the house, Walker had been beaten, and was sitting in a chair, tied up.
Holliman, who also goes by the name Raheem, said he, himself, did not participate in the beating or stabbing of Walker, which was consistent with Garland's videotaped statement to police. On the tape, Garland said, "I don't know why Raheem was there because he really didn't do anything." However, Garland did tell police, "Raheem tied him [Walker] up after Miles knocked him out."
During testimony Thursday, Holliman said he sent a text message to Garland before Garland and Roberts returned to the house.
"I told Breylon I was leaving the house, that they were on some [expletive]," Holliman said.
"What was the [expletive]?" Green asked Holliman.
"What was happening to Carlnell," Holliman responded.
Holliman said when Garland and Roberts returned, "they started questioning him about some money."
He told the court that Roberts stabbed Walker in the hand, and Garland later stabbed Walker in the leg.
Holliman said Allen cut off Walker's dreadlocks with the same knife.
"Breylon and Miles picked him [Walker] up and took him in the bathroom," he continued. He said the co-defendants poured a flammable liquid over Walker and threatened to set him on fire.
"Have we gotten to the part where Keith pulled out a gun yet?" Green asked.
"There was never a gun around," Holliman answered.
Garland is also accused of beating Walker "about the head and body with a hammer," according to an arrest warrant filed in Clayton County Magistrate Court.
Holliman told the court that he believed Garland participated in the incident, in part, because Garland was indebted to Keith Roberts.
"Breylon was selling weed for Keith," Holliman said. "He owed Keith some money ... he didn't pay him back the money, so Keith used him as a ride."
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 trial is scheduled to continue today.