Grand jury dismisses murder charges against 3 Columbus men

Three men facing a murder charge in a July 2009 shooting either had the charge dropped or dismissed in a Muscogee County grand jury hearing on Tuesday.

Carlos Brown, 25, Kubiat Ekperikpe, 34, and Clarence Demarcus Mahone, 24, faced charges in the July 19 shooting death of Maurice Hollis, 24.

“They were all charged with murder, but nobody was indicted for murder,” said Assistant District Attorney Wesley Lambertus.

Brown, Ekperikpe and Hollis had been at H2O, a Veterans Parkway nightclub, earlier that night when they decided to leave in an attempt to find marijuana, a detective testified at Columbus Recorder’s Court. That led them to Mahone’s 6400 Main St. apartment early that morning.

The defendants gave conflicting statements about who waited at the car and who accompanied Hollis to the apartment. It’s also unknown who knew about the alleged plot to rob Mahone, the detective said. Shots were fired, and Hollis died from a gunshot fired by Mahone, Lambertus said.

A Georgia Supreme Court case exempts Brown and Ekperikpe from being charged with murder. Mahone, who could have been indicted by the grand jury, instead had that charge dismissed, Lambertus said.

“We’re obviously satisfied at the way the grand jury looked at the evidence in the case,” said defense attorney Stacey Jackson, who represents Mahone.

Brown and Ekperikpe were indicted on charges of attempted armed robbery, aggravated assault with the intent to rob, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, the prosecutor said.

Mahone was indicted on charges of theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Lambertus said. The prosecutor added that when Mahone was arrested, a gun he had was stolen.

“The victim (Mahone) is the one who did the shooting,” Lambertus said. “Because the victim did it, the codefendants could not be charged.”

Lambertus referred to a 1981 state Supreme Court case, the State v. Crane. In that case, the high court upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss murder indictments against men accused of trying to burglarize someone.

During that burglary, the intended victim fatally shot one of the suspects. The surviving suspects had faced murder charges.

“The court construed the statute as requiring that a participant in the burglary directly cause the victim’s death in order for the statute to be invoked and rejected the construction that would have allowed the participant to be charged where he caused the victim to kill one of the perpetrators,” states an overview of the case.

Defense attorney John Martin, whose firm represents Ekperikpe, said a ballistics test showed that his client didn’t commit the fatal shooting. In order for someone to be charged with felony murder, that person must have directly caused the death of someone else, Martin said.

“We feel obviously good about it,” Martin said of Tuesday’s action, “but that has been our contention all along.”