As murder trial wraps, blame questioned

LAWRENCEVILLE -- In the murder trial of Lawrenceville resident Steven Green, both sides agree that a fiendish need for drugs and money led to the death of an innocent man. The issue lies in who is really to blame, and who was where.

Green, 29, is accused of killing 24-year-old Anthony Augustus at an apartment complex near downtown Lawrenceville in a burglary that went haywire the night of Oct. 1 last year.

Augustus was giving his friend, a known drug dealer named Shyrome Marshall, a ride home that evening to the Cedargate Apartments, when the friends stumbled on a burglary in progress, said Assistant District Attorney Chuck Efstration.

"The victim in this case did not deserve to be a victim, simply because he gave his friend a ride home," Efstration told jurors during closing arguments Friday morning.

Prosecutors believe Green set the burglary up and broke in the apartment with codefendant Isaac Sandoval about 10 p.m., both searching for money and the prescription painkiller Oxycontin, which both abused. Green had known Marshall, the tenant, since a 2004 prison stint for weapons possession and had bought pills from him before.

Efstration said more than 200 Oxycontin pills were found outside Marshall's apartment, under some pine straw.

Marshall was assaulted as he came in the apartment but managed to run to a neighbor's for help. Augustus walked in behind him, fought with the burglars and was shot once in the waist. He was pronounced dead about an hour later at Gwinnett Medical Center.

Marshall pointed to Green during trial as the man who attacked him in the apartment. Green told detectives he staged the burglary but stayed at a nearby Publix while his pal executed it.

Green's defense attorney, Macklyn Smith, painted Marshall as a liar whose testimony is suspect. He posited that Green was never at the scene, though a technician's testimony showed that Green's cell phone transmissions proved he did not remain at Publix, Efstration said.

Smith stressed to jurors that Sandoval was the only true addict.

"It was (Sandoval) on that day ... that was badly in need of drugs," Smith said.

In testimony, a woman who lives in a neighboring apartment pointed to Green as a man she saw fleeing the apartment that night; Smith said her recollection was flawed, because Green was clean-shaven and she claimed the fleeing man had facial hair.

Police arrested Sandoval two days after Marshall led them to Green.

Green is charged with eight offenses including murder, felony murder, burglary, aggravated assault and firearms possession. He faces life in prison. Sandoval's trial is pending.

Deliberations began Friday afternoon and are expected to continue Monday.