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Judge denies motion for new murder trial

Man continues life sentence for cousin’s killing

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

Troup County Sheriff’s deputies lead convicted murderer Erwin Brewer, 31, out of superior court in February 2015. A judge on Wednesday denied Brewer’s motion for a new trial.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_Brewer.jpgTroup County Sheriff’s deputies lead convicted murderer Erwin Brewer, 31, out of superior court in February 2015. A judge on Wednesday denied Brewer’s motion for a new trial. File

LaGRANGE —A Troup County Superior Court judge denied a motion for a new trial Wednesday afternoon for a man convicted of murdering a family member after a heated verbal exchange.

A jury convicted Erwin Brewer, 31, last February of shooting and killing his 36-year-old second cousin, Larry Strickland, outside a home on Boulevard.

The incident happened in December of 2013 after Strickland embarrassed Brewer in front of his friends by confronting him over an unpaid debt, prosecutors said.

Judge John Simpson sentenced Brewer to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder.

Simpson was again on the bench Monday as Brewer’s new defense attorney, Deborah Leslie, cited errors in the previous case that should have been cause for a mistrial.

Leslie called Troup County Senior Public Defender, Jeff Shattuck, to the stand. Shattuck was Brewer’s attorney during the trial in February.

Leslie asked Shattuck about two specific incidences during the trial where witnesses spoke about information banned from being presented to the jury.

Shattuck said he objected when a witness for the state mentioned Brewer’s reason for borrowing the money from his cousin was to make bond for a previous charge.

He also objected when LaGrange Police Investigator Ray Ham testified he was asked to “utilize records” to find Brewer after the murder.

Leslie told Simpson both instances called into question Brewer’s character and criminal history — and could have potentially swayed the jury’s decision to convict her client.

Furthermore, after both objections, Shattuck did not allow the judge “curative instruction” to tell the jury to ignore the information they just heard when deliberating over the case, Leslie stated.

Shattuck said particularly when it came to Ham’s testimony, he was hoping it got by the jury and he did not want to bring it back to the forefront of their minds.

He said he did ask for a mistrial — but it was denied.

Leslie told the court her client had “ineffective counsel.”

Troup County Assistant District Attorney Melissa Himes, who prosecuted the case, picked apart Leslie’s motion for a new trial.

She stated Ham did not specify what type of records LPD was looking for when searching for Brewer.

“Nothing in his statement, which was cut off by the objection after the word ‘record’, told the jury the expected information that would be found in those records,” she argued.

Himes said Ham never mentioned using a mugshot to identify Brewer.

“What he said did not place his character into question,” she stated.

The judge mulled over both arguments – and sided with the state by refusing to grant Brewer’s motion for a new trial. Brewer will not be eligible for parole because of prior felony convictions. On top of the life sentence, he was also sentenced for five years for using a firearm during the commission of a crime; a sentence that will run consecutive to the life sentence.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.