ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia man accused of throwing boiled water on a same-sex couple sleeping in an apartment acted recklessly but wasn’t motivated by hate or malice, his defense attorney said Wednesday.
Martin Blackwell is charged with eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault in the attack that left Anthony Gooden and Marquez Tolbert with severe burns that required multiple surgeries. Prosecutors have said he faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.
Defense attorney Monique Walker acknowledged that Blackwell poured water on the pair and deserves to be punished, but she asked jurors to find that it was reckless conduct.
“It’s not about hate. It’s about old-school culture, old-school thinking,” she told the jury.
The defense didn’t call any witnesses and didn’t present any evidence. Blackwell, who remained stoic throughout the trial, did not take the stand.
Jurors planned to start deliberations around 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Blackwell, 48, was a long-distance truck driver and lived with his girlfriend, Kim Foster, at her sister’s apartment in College Park when he was in town. Gooden, who is Foster’s son, and Tolbert had been dating about a month and were sleeping at the apartment Feb. 12 after working an overnight shift when Blackwell dumped boiled water on them.
Blackwell felt the young men’s behavior was disrespectful and that there are certain things people sharing a house shouldn’t do out of respect, his defense attorney said.
Prosecutor Fani Willis scoffed at the idea that Blackwell was simply motivated by outdated ideas.
“We’re not going back to when you get to treat people differently because of who they are,” she said in closing arguments.
Blackwell’s actions were distasteful, revolting and repugnant, but they weren’t deadly and he didn’t intend to cause harm, Walker said.
“It wasn’t hateful. It wasn’t malicious. It was reckless,” Walker said.
She said Blackwell often made inappropriate comments to various members of the household — asking about their sex lives and calling them derogatory names — and throwing water on them was just an extension of that reckless behavior, Walker said. He didn’t intend to hurt the young men, he just wanted to get them up and get them to stop any disrespectful behavior, Walker said.
The prosecutor said his actions were well thought out. He took the time to select the biggest pot in the house, filled it with water and waited for it to boil. That gave him plenty of time to think about what he was doing and the consequences, Willis said.
After pouring water on them, Blackwell grabbed Tolbert as he jumped and screamed in pain and told him, “Get out of my house with all that gay,” Tolbert testified.
Gooden spent about a month in the hospital, two weeks of that in a medically induced coma, and Tolbert spent 10 days in the hospital. Both men suffered severe burns that required multiple surgeries and skin grafts.
They both testified Tuesday that they suffered great pain and were unable to perform even the most basic everyday tasks — eating, bathing and using the bathroom — without help when they got out of the hospital.
Prosecutors asked jurors to find Blackwell guilty of aggravated battery for disfigurement and loss of use of body parts and guilty of aggravated assault for dumping the hot water on them.
Georgia doesn’t have a hate crime law. The FBI said in March that it had opened a hate crime investigation.