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Trial begins in Irish Bred Pub death

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A Clayton County man is on trial in Henry County Superior Court, for allegedly killing a man in a bar fight.

Opening arguments are scheduled to be heard in Henry County Superior Court today, in the murder trial of Charles Edward Brown, 45, of Jonesboro.

Brown is charged with malice murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault. He is accused in the March 8, 2009, death of 22-year-old Gregory Ryan Gilliam, of McDonough.

A jury of five women and seven men were selected to hear evidence in the case Monday, according to Brown's defense attorney, Ricky Morris.

Brown and Gilliam were reportedly involved in an altercation outside the Irish Bred Pub, which was located at 716 Ga. Highway 155 South, at the time of the incident.

Detective Art Sparks, who worked for the McDonough Police Department at the time of Gilliam's death, provided details of the initial investigation at a probable-cause hearing on March 9, 2009.

The detective testified that Gilliam and several friends were in the bar at closing time, when they were asked to leave. Sparks said when Brown approached a waitress at the bar, she complained to Gilliam.

"She told him it was some guy in a white shirt, making a remark to her," said Sparks. "She said Mr. Brown stated, 'I'll take care of it.' He then followed [Gilliam's] party out to the parking lot."

The detective, now with the Hampton Police Department, added in his 2009 testimony that Brown and Gilliam were engaged in a fight outside the bar, resulting in bouncers coming to break up the altercation. Sparks told the court that Brown chased the victim down, and pulled a four- to six-inch knife from his pocket.

"People all over the parking lot saw it," Sparks said. Gilliam suffered stab wounds to his back and chest, and a cut to the throat, according to the detective.

Brown's May 28, 2009, indictment alleges that he also assaulted two men, Louie Daly and Eddie Wood, outside the bar. McDonough Police Chief Preston Dorsey said he is confident in the prosecution's case against the defendant.

"There was a witness who [saw] this incident," Dorsey said. "As far as the investigation, we're ready to present our evidence, and we're ready for trial."

Morris offered a different view of events leading to Gilliam's death, than those given by police. He said his client was defending himself from being attacked by the victim, and others who were at the bar, when the fight erupted.

"This is an unfortunate event," the defense lawyer said. "Mr. Brown found himself in a situation where he was jumped on by several people. He was taken to the ground, beaten and kicked about the head, was able to get back to his feet, where he then took a knife out of his pocket to get some of the people off him. Everyone backed away from him."

Morris said as Brown was walking toward the Irish Bred Pub to get away from his attackers, Gilliam "came out of nowhere."

"[Gilliam] left his feet, and dove shoulder-first in a tackle maneuver, directly where Mr. Brown was holding the knife for defense," Morris said. "At no time had Mr. Brown threatened or assaulted any person with the knife. I hope the jury is able to see the facts and evidence for what they are, and I hope Mr. Brown will be found not guilty of all the charges."

Senior Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell will preside over the trial. Boswell is assisting Henry Chief Superior Court Judge Arch W. McGarity with his court calendar this week, Morris said.