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Man claims self-defense at murder trial
Proseuctors say suspect took truck from site of shooting, admitted to killing days later
Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

A few days after shooting and killing a Gainesville man, Mark Antonio Taylor II said from an interview room in Atlanta that he was trying to right a wrong.

“Do the right thing,” was his motto, he told the Gainesville police investigator.

In that moment and that interview, Taylor was confessing to murdering Charles Weaver, the prosecution said Monday in Hall County Superior Court.

“Mark Taylor will tell you himself as you hear the state’s evidence that he should not have walked up to that truck; that he should not have taken it; that he should not have shot Charles Weaver,” Assistant District Attorney Zach Smith said.

Taylor, 22, is accused of killing Weaver, 42, an employee at Carriage Mitsubishi on Browns Bridge Road, in the course of an alleged theft in the early hours of Dec. 28, 2012.

Taylor, his head down for the majority of his attorney’s opening statement, is charged with armed robbery, theft by taking, aggravated assault, three counts of felony murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and malice murder. He has been held at the Hall County Jail since his arrest.

But his defense attorney said the statement was only the expression of an acknowledgment Taylor had made at the time of the incident. He realized taking a truck from the dealership was wrong, and when he tried to give it back to Weaver, a confrontation led to two gunshots — one fatal — in self-defense, the attorney said.

“You’re going to see Mark Taylor, and he’s going to take the stand,” said Atlanta attorney Morris Fair Jr. in his opening statement. “You’re going to see what happened that day and what he meant by ‘Do the right thing.’”

Fair said that Taylor, in the U.S. Army Reserve, was cold and tired after spending the night in Gainesville, where his girlfriend lived. He had stayed in a hotel lobby on Browns Bridge Road.

He told the receptionist he was a veteran with no means to get home to Atlanta. He left on foot early in the morning, and spotted the 2011 red Nissan Frontier at the dealership, engine running.

He began to leave with the car, surveillance footage played by the prosecution showed, then drove toward Weaver as he approached.

“Yes, he’s wrong. He’s wrong for trying to take that truck. He knew it was wrong,” Fair said. “He said ‘I’m sorry’ ... and Charles Weaver put a knife to him.”

The shooting itself was not captured by the dealership’s roving surveillance camera, panning back and forth over the parking lot.

Smith said the killing “amounted to an execution,” in the words of the investigator, once Taylor had disarmed Weaver.

Taylor told the investigator he instructed Weaver to drop his knife and cellphone, and said he complied. Taylor feared for his life when he said Weaver went for his gun. The state said Weaver had tried to run from Taylor, as evidenced by blood, bullet casings, his location in the parts room and face-down position.

Jury selection also shed some insight into how the defense plans to frame a self-defense argument.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance asked the panel of potential jurors if any of them had acted in self-defense before, and followed up in individual questions by asking if jurors had been committing a crime when they acted in self-defense.

She asked jurors to raise their hand if they found racial slurs offensive to the point of “an aggressive response.”

Asked for clarification, Vance asked if a racial slur could “justify violence.”

After about three hours of questioning, seven men and seven women were selected to serve as the 12 jurors who will decide the case, and two alternates.

Six state’s witnesses testified Monday, including the first employees to find Weaver covered in blood on the concrete floor.

Parts manager Keith Roper made a second call to 911 after an initial call for emergency medical help.

“I’m not sure,” he told the dispatcher of Weaver’s injury. “He’s bleeding. There’s blood coming profusely out of his head.”

Roper made a second call when employees spotted shell casings, and determined there had been a shooting. Also taking the stand were first responders from the Gainesville Fire Department and police.

The case is expected to go through the end of the week, and Judge Bonnie Oliver told jurors testimony may be scheduled for Saturday.

Vance said if the trial’s brisk pace continues, the state will wrap up its presentation of evidence by Wednesday.

Vance said the state plans on entering nearly 100 photos into evidence today. The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m.