Motion for venue change filed in gang murder trial

ALBANY, Ga. -- A hearing was held Friday at one of the Dougherty County Jail's courtrooms for eight defendants in a gang-related murder case.

Judge Willie Lockette heard a barrage of motions from both prosecutors and defense attorneys during the early morning hearing in preparation for a trial.

All eight defendants are currently in jail on charges related to what police have described as a beat-down homicide during a Black Gangster Disciples initiation in June 2009.

During the initiation, investigators said about 12 members of the gang beat Reginald Richardson, 32, for six minutes. The initiation resulted in Richardson's death.

One of the defendants in the case is Gregory Jermaine Marshall, 33, who is reputed to be the leader of the Black Gangster Disciples.

Marshall has been charged with murder, aggravated assault and three gang participation charges. One charge of concealing a death was dismissed by Judge Victoria Darisaw during a October 2009 committal hearing.

Others facing murder charges, gang participation and aggravated assault charges in the gang initiation killing are: Douglas Luther Shealy II, 20; Corey Jackson, 32; David Freeman, 32; Ernest "Scoop" Thomas, 32; Yaaiel "Yaa" Narvell Shelton, 26; Orlando Charlot Jr. and George E. Ferguson, 36.

Chanel King, 27, and Antonio Ricardo Crapps, 28, are charged with concealing a death and street gang terrorism in connection with Richardson's death.

Judge Willie Lockette heard a motion for change of venue from defense attorney Roosevelt Carter, who is representing Marshall.

The change of venue was filed on the grounds that extensive media coverage by local news organizations of the murder and subsequent arrests will make trying to find an unbiased jury in Dougherty County difficult if the case is tried locally.

Also, the defense attorney's successfully argued Friday morning that cameras should not be allowed during the courtroom proceedings for filming, again on the grounds of tarnishing a potential juror's image of the defendants.

"One of the things we want to try to do is be fair. Everyone has the right to a fair hearing and trial and we will cooperate in any way possible so the case can be tried on merit," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards to questions regarding the change of venue motion and removal of the media's cameras from the courtroom.

Edwards said the district attorney's office is prepared to begin making plea deals with any of the defendants who wish to take them.

"Everybody will have an opportunity to enter a plea and those that wish to resolve can do so and those that wish to go to trial will proceed," said the district attorney.

Defense attorneys agreed Friday to hold all of their motions until they have an opportunity to hear their clients offers next week.

Defense attorney Sam Merritt, who is representing Jackson, said his client will be examining the plea deals offered by the district attorney.

So far, Freeman has agreed to plead guilty to charges next week and Shelton has also pleaded guilty to his charges and has agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case.

Defendants that choose to not take a plea deal will all be tried at the same time, said prosecutors.

"We are trying to move this case along swiftly," said Edwards.

One problem during preparations for the trial was trying to locate representation for all the defendants.

"Our main problem was getting representation," said Edwards. "It was difficult to try and find everyone representation that did not have conflicting issues."

Attorneys provided by the state have been brought in for some of the defendants.