Lawyers in the trial of accused cop killer William Woodard gave their closing arguments to jurors Oct. 11.
The trial began Oct. 2 and included testimony from eyewitnesses, ballistics experts, crime scene experts and the DeKalb County medical examiner, among others. Woodard, 34, is accused of murdering DeKalb County Police officers Eric Barker, 34, and Ricky Bryant Jr., 26, while they were working off-duty security at Glenwood Gardens Apartments.
Woodard has admitted to shooting the officers but claims he did it in self-defense after Barker and Bryant pulled him out of a car and began beating and shooting at him.
During closing arguments defense attorney Dwight Thomas argued that Barker and Bryant were “bullies with a badge.” Thomas accused both officers of doing several things against DeKalb County Police policy including soliciting work from the owner of the apartment complex, “shaking down” residents and lying about owning a private security company.
“The badge does not give you the right to break the law while you’re trying to enforce the law,” Thomas told jurors.
Thomas also accused the DeKalb County Police Department of manipulating evidence at the crime scene and said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should have investigated the shooting.
“This is a case in which DeKalb County—not some other neutral agency—is investigating and they’re out to protect the reputation of their own,” Thomas said.
According to prosecutors, the officers approached a vehicle in the apartment parking lot of the Glenwood Gardens Apartments. Woodard then got out of the car and allegedly began shooting. Police said Woodard shot Barker in the head and Bryant in the torso and drove away.
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James argued that Woodard, a convicted felon, didn’t want to go back to jail so he shot Barker and Bryant. James also told jurors that much of the witness testimony provided by the defense was either inaccurate or speculative, at the least.
“I want to set the record straight, right here, right now,” James said. “These men were not thugs with authority. They were heroes.”
James said the fundamental issue in the case is whether jurors believe the defendant’s claim that he was beaten. However, he told jurors that they couldn’t “straddle the fence in this case; either it’s self-defense or its murder.”
According to witness testimony, three hours before Barker and Bryant were shot, Woodard told his aunt, “Police carry their guns, I carry mine. If they draw, I’m going to draw,” James said. “Woodard isn’t a victim, like Rodney King or Treyvon Martin, but a murderer.”
“I’m going to ask you to reach a verdict that sends a message,” James told jurors.
Woodard previously turned down a deal for life in prison without parole. He is facing the death penalty if convicted.