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Witnesses: Murder trial victim was quarrelsome

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Defense witnesses in the Charles Edward Brown murder trial contend that the man Brown is accused of killing -- Gregory Ryan Gilliam -- threatened them weeks before his death outside the Irish Bred Pub, formerly in McDonough.

Brown is charged with malice murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault. Prosecutors allege that, at closing time on March 8, 2009, Brown killed Gilliam by stabbing him in the shoulder area, and back, with a knife, and cutting his neck during a fight outside the pub.

Brown had been a bouncer at the pub in the past, but was not at the time of the fatal fight. Defense attorney, Ricky Morris, is arguing that Brown acted in self-defense.

Defense witnesses, Roger Randels and Jill Landrum, initially testified Thursday outside the presence of the jury. Judge Stephen Boswell later allowed jurors to hear testimony regarding prior acts of Gilliam at the bar.

Randels told the judge he was working at the pub as a bouncer, three to four weeks before Gilliam's death, when the victim became "belligerent" with him at closing time.

"I said, 'What's your problem?' said Randels. "I said, 'You need to go on, before I call the cops.' He says, 'Well, come on outside, and I'll whip your old, gray-haired [expletive].'"

Randels said Gilliam's girlfriend stepped in between them, and he told the couple to get out. When Landrum, entered the fray, Gilliam cursed at her repeatedly, threatening Randels and Landrum, according to Randels.

"He said, 'You don't know who you're dealing with. I know every policeman in Henry County, and they won't do nothing to me,'" Randels continued.

Landrum took the stand outside the jury's presence, and confirmed Randel's testimony. Landrum said after the altercation occurred, she banned Gilliam from the establishment for 30 days.

Henry County Assistant District Attorney Jim Wright explained to the judge why he thought the two witnesses' testimony should not be included in the trial. "Prior acts need to be prior acts of violence," said the prosecutor. "All we have here is drunk talk. Belligerent does not equate to violence."

In response, Morris said the statements of Randels and Landrum, indicate Gilliam had a history of being an "aggressor."

Judge Boswell sided with Morris, and allowed Randels and Landrum to testify for the jury. Jurors also heard testimony from forensic pathologist, Dr. Jonathan Arden, regarding the injuries sustained by Gilliam in the fight. During cross-examination, Arden told Prosecutor Wright that the victim suffered a stab wound with a six-inch track.

The defense claims Gilliam suffered his injuries while tackling Brown, who was defending himself with a knife. Arden told Wright he is uncertain, as to exactly when the knife entered Gilliam's body during the struggle.

"It makes the most sense that it was propelled in, by the force of the man tackling him," the doctor testified. "But, can I tell you exactly at which second during that sequence it happened? No."

The stab wound, the doctor conceded, appeared to have been inflicted with a "large amount of force."

Wright then asked Arden to describe what Gilliam likely experienced in the moments before he died. "I would expect him to start bleeding, substantially and rapidly, pretty much immediately," said Arden. "I would expect that he could have some degree of collapse, of his lungs. He could have felt some shortness of breath."

The pathologist said Gilliam probably became unconscious, within a minute of being stabbed.

The prosecution has rested its case. The trial is expected to continue, today, in Henry County Superior Court.