Henry murder case now with jury

By Jason A. Smith


Jury deliberations are ongoing in Henry County Superior Court, in the case of a man charged with killing a patron outside a McDonough bar.

Closing arguments were heard Friday in the trial of Charles Edward Brown, of Jonesboro. Brown, 45, is charged with malice murder, felony murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Two counts of aggravated assault were removed from the jury's consideration, according to Judge Stephen Boswell, who is presiding over the case.

Brown is accused of killing 22-year-old Gregory Ryan Gilliam, in a fight outside the Irish Bred Pub in McDonough on March 8, 2009. The state alleges that Brown, who was a former bouncer at the pub at the time of the incident, fatally stabbed Gilliam in the back and shoulder, and cut his neck.

Henry County Assistant District Attorney Jim Wright gave closing arguments for the state. He said Brown tried to "justify" his actions at the pub, without admitting he stabbed Gilliam.

"I'm somewhat confused," Wright told the jury. "I thought that the last five days we've been hearing evidence in this case, the defendant was claiming self-defense. I thought that in order for the defense to claim self-defense, the defendant had to admit the act. He had to admit he stabbed Ryan Gilliam."

In a dramatic gesture, Wright then held a copy of the Georgia Criminal Code book in his hand. "You know what [defense attorney, Ricky Morris] wants you to do?" the prosecutor asked. "Throw it in the trash. Don't even look at it. Ignore it. Because why? It is devastating to his client."

Wright acknowledged the defendant "does not look like a mean person," but reminded the jury regarding the serious nature of Brown's charges. "The state has not indicted Mr. Brown for being a bad person," said Wright. "Good people sometimes do bad things."

Wright said Gilliam was unarmed when Brown stabbed him. The prosecutor then pointed to defense witnesses' testimony, about belligerent behavior by the victim in the weeks before his death.

"Are those incidents so terrible that it's worth him losing his life?" Wright asked.

Morris, summarized his closing arguments on behalf of his client, in an interview with the Henry Daily Herald. Morris said the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof in the trial.

"The state didn't prove that Mr. Brown intentionally did any act -- malice murder, felony murder or manslaughter," Morris said. "In fact, every witness that was brought forth proved our defense, that ... Mr. Gilliam was the aggressor and attacked Mr. Brown."

Morris said evidence presented by the prosecution revealed that Brown was surrounded by nine other people, during the fight.

"[They] used their hands, feet and chests, and kicked and beat him about the head," said Morris. "As Mr. Brown was trying to walk away, Ryan Gilliam dove directly into Mr. Brown, where he [Brown] had taken the knife out ... to defend himself. Unfortunately for Mr. Gilliam, he dove directly into the knife, causing his own death."

Morris told the jury, at the outset of the trial, that Brown would take the stand in his own defense. However, Brown elected not to testify during the defense's presentation of evidence in the case. Morris said there was "no benefit" in a jury hearing testimony from Brown.

"Every witness the state called presented our own case of self-defense, and said the facts the exact same way that [Brown] had explained it to police," Morris continued. "The only danger would be subjecting him to skillful lawyers who know how to cross-examine witnesses and confuse them."

Although Morris "feels good" about Brown's chances of acquittal, the attorney said he realizes his client's fate is in the hands of the jury.

"I never over-estimate a case, because you never know what a jury could do," Morris said.

The jury, which got the case on Friday and suspended deliberations at the end of the business day, is scheduled to resume deliberations on Tuesday.