Defense claims defendant was in the 'wrong place at wrong time’ in 2016 Sylvester death

Eric Brown Trial Opening Statements

SYLVESTER, Ga. (WALB) - Opening statements began for a trial in the 2016 death of Dontavious Rutland.

Eric Brown, who is standing trial, pleaded not guilty to the four charges against him. Those charges include felony murder, aggravated assault, home invasion and conspiracy to commit a crime.

“On November 30, 2016 Javiel (Toomer) shot and killed Dontavious Rutland," Tommy Duck III, Brown’s attorney, said. "We don’t disagree with that. We do disagree that Eric Brown had anything to do with it.”

Duck argued Brown was not directly involved with Rutland’s death or the home invasion. He said he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time after asking for a ride home from Toomer, who is also being charged.

“When he tries to get in the back seat, there’s something in the way and he had to move it out of the way," Brown said. "That something he moves turns out to be a gun. Javiel doesn’t take Eric home. Javiel says ‘I got something to do.’ Eric is uneasy, Eric asks about the gun. He starts to get uneasy, Javiel says ‘I got something to do before I take you home.' Eric doesn’t want to go with Javiel.”

Duck said Brown had no idea that ride home would be detoured to Rutland’s home.

The state argued Brown was a part of the home invasion where he and two other men were looking for drugs and money.

The invasion led to Rutland’s death and prosecutors argued Brown is guilty on all charges.

"See, they had the intention to come over there with a shotgun, to ‘hit a quick lick’, take Tay’s (Dontavious Rutland) money, take his drugs and be gone,” J.D. Hart, assistant district attorney, said.

The gun that Brown moved over while in the car, is a key piece of evidence for prosecutors.

The state told jurors Brown not only touched the shotgun but held it during the home invasion and Brown’s DNA will help prove that.

“If I sit here and run my hand real hard and they (GBI) come and swan that. There’s a good chance they’re gonna get my DNA off of that because of the friction leaves DNA, skin cells, behind," Hart said. "So the GBI starts explaining this to EB (Eric Brown) and EB says ‘well I did touch the shot gun, I was in the back seat and it was laying there and I touched it so you might find my DNA but it wasn’t because I was at the door holding it like everyone says.”

Both the defense and state agreed Brown did not fire the hand gun that ended Rutland’s life, however his role in the death is still under question.

Several witnesses took the stand, including Rutland’s girlfriend Brittany Taylor, who witnessed the invasion.

“I hear Dontavious scream, gun shots and that’s it,” Taylor said.

Rutland was shot three times below the waist and later died while being treated by medical staff.

The trial will continue Thursday with other witnesses, including responding law enforcement agents.

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