By Michael Davis
A former Morehouse College student was acquitted Monday in the 2006 torture-death of a fellow student.
Breylon Garland, 24, faced 12 counts, including charges of malice murder and felony murder, in the death of Carlnell Walker, 23. One of his co-defendants, Miles Allen, 24, was convicted Aug. 28 of participating in Walker's murder. Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield, who also presided over Garland's case, sentenced Allen to two life terms in prison, plus 70 years.
Co-defendants Keith Roberts and Theodore Holliman will be tried separately in the case, later, according to Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green.
Garland's defense attorney, Robert Mack, had argued that Garland drove his three co-defendants to Walker's home in Riverdale, but was unaware of any plans to attack or rob Walker.
Prosecutors had argued that Garland and his three co-defendants tortured Walker for several hours one night in June, 2006, at Walker's Glenshire Court home. Prosecutors said the men did not leave until the following morning, after they had bound Walker, gagged him, doused him in a flammable liquid and left him in the trunk of a car in the garage to die.
Walker's body was discovered July 8, 2006, according to testimony in the case.
"Carlnell was kind of begging for his life," Garland told police during a taped interview on July 19, 2006. He said the motive for the attack was money. According to prosecutors, Walker had apparently told several people that he was expecting a settlement from a March 2006, automobile crash.
During the police interview, played in court last week during his trial, Garland admitted that he helped place Walker in the trunk of the car. He said Roberts forced him to do it. "He [Roberts] told me to put him [Walker] in the trunk. I told him, no," Garland said on the tape. "He [Roberts] pulled a gun on me. He said, 'Look, you do this or you get in the trunk with him,'" Garland said.
Garland told police during the interview that he had no idea, before hand, that the co-defendants had planned to attack Walker. After a week-long trial, and several hours of deliberation Friday evening and Monday morning, a jury acquitted him on all of the counts he faced. He became visibly emotional, and several times, appeared to mouth the words "thank you" in the direction of members of the jury.
Benefield told him he would be free to leave after being processed out of the Clayton County Jail.
Formerly a student majoring in psychology at Morehouse, Garland is likely to return to his home state of California to continue his studies, Mack said after Monday's verdict. "He's always believed that once a jury got to hear the evidence ... that he would be exonerated," Mack said. "This is a case of a good kid being set up by folks he thought were his friends. They used him to get a ride over there, and nobody ever told him what was going on, what they were up to."
Green, the executive assistant district attorney, said prosecutors were able to speak with only three of the jurors in the case after the verdict was rendered. "We find ourselves in the unfortunate position where we don't have that much more insight into their verdict than anybody spectating in the courtroom," he said, "however, I think that there were some difficulties reconciling the horrendous nature of the crime with what on the surface appears to be a upstanding, otherwise pleasant, young man.
"It did come out in evidence, obviously, that he was a student at Morehouse," Green said. "It came out in evidence that his parents were police officers. It came out in evidence that he had three jobs - one of them working at UPS. He's articulate, clean-cut, and I think, that even though we did not get a chance to speak with them, one of the difficulties jurors have in this [is] comporting that with their idea of a murderer."
Green said Holliman and Roberts could be tried some time early next year.
- Staff writer Linda Looney-Bond contributed to this article.