Judge grants Georgia sheriff's deputies immunity in Taser death

Three Georgia lawmen charged with murder in the Taser death of a mentally ill man were granted immunity Monday, two weeks before their trial was scheduled to begin.

Former Washington County Deputies, Michael Howell, Rhett Scott and Henry Copeland contend they acted in self-defense when they repeatedly used stun guns on 58-year-old Eurie Martin. Attorneys for the trio, who were to be tried together, successfully argued that Martin caused the confrontation to escalate when he resisted arrest on a July evening in 2017. The deputies are white and Martin was black.

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“The trial judge must evaluate the evidence from the perspective of an officer at the time and under the circumstances existing at the time in question,” Senior Superior Court Judge H. Gibbs Flanders wrote in his ruling granting immunity.

“The defendants have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that they were justified in their actions based upon a reasonable belief that the force used in the seizure and arrest of Mr. Martin was reasonable under the circumstances.”

Middle Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman said he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

“We feel very confident it will be overturned,” Altman said.

The case against the deputies will remain in limbo until the high court rules on Altman's appeal.

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