Jury returns innocent verdict in aggravated assault case

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 4, 2003

A Brookhaven man was found innocent of attempted armed robberyand aggravated assault Thursday during a trial on his role in aMarch 2002 incident at a south Brookhaven club.

“Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,” cried Samuel Seals’ auntValverline Johnson as she left the courtroom following the Thursdayafternoon verdict.

Once outside the courtroom, Seals, 28, of 997 South First St.,wiped tears from his eyes as he hugged family members and thankedhis attorneys. Jurors had taken about an hour and 15 minutes tofind him innocent of trying rob Ed Willie Brown, 25, of Hazlehurst,and shooting at him during a March 6, 2002, incident outside TheOther Place on South First Street.

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The scene in the District Attorney’s Office was quite differentfollowing the verdict.

Brookhaven Police Det. Bobby Bell, the investigator in the case,said he believed jurors allowed “sympathy for the defendant tooverride justice.”

“I am very disappointed,” Bell said.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Jones complimented police workin the case, but also expressed disappointment.

“It’s a sad day when someone can shoot at someone who’s runningaway, claim self-defense and be believed,” Jones said.

Conflicting testimony during the two-day trial suggested twovery different versions of events.

Prosecutors alleged that Brown, after being struck in the headby Seals with a pistol, fled the scene as Seals fired several shotsat him. However, the defendant’s version of events painted Brown asthe aggressor and Seals running from the scene as Brown and hisfriends pursued him.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Pat Welch said theprosecution had not proved its case with credible evidence andbeyond a reasonable doubt. He said there was “doubt from theget-go.”

Later, after the jury’s decision was announced, Welch describedthe verdict as “clean-clean.”

Welch’s comments were a reference to a jersey worn by thealleged victim during his testimony Wednesday. Brown’s jersey hadthe words “Dirty-Dirty” across the front.

Welch told jurors in closing that he could not have paid Brownenough to wear that jersey for his court appearance.

“To me, that’s exactly what his credibility was: dirty, dirty,”Welch said.

In her closing arguments and earlier when Seals was on thewitness stand, Jones tried to show a number of apparentinconsistencies in the man’s story. Jones asked why Seals’statements to police never mentioned that he was shot at during theincident.

Seals said he was not hit and wanted to “leave it alone.”

“I didn’t want him to get in trouble over a few littlescratches, so I just let it be,” said Seals, who said he received”deep scratches” on his right hand and neck.

According to earlier testimony, Brown said he swung a nylon bagcontaining a broken-down pool stick at Seals after Seals hit himwith a gun.

Seals Thursday alleged Brown swung at him with a pool stickduring the incident. Jones asked a description of the poolstick.

“When he was swinging at me, I wasn’t trying to see what thename brand was on it,” Seals said.