Liillard not guilty; Lillard also not a free man (yet)
You could've heard an ink pen drop, as Deputy Clerk of Superior Courts Clerk Kim Brown prepared to read the verdict.
"As to Count 1, felony murder, we the jury find the defendant not guilty.
As to Count 2, agg. assault, we the jury find the defendant not guilty.
As to Count 4, involuntary manslaughter, we the jury find the defendant not guilty.
As to Count 4, reckless conduct, we the jury find the defendant not guilty."
Lillard and his attorney, Matthew Tucker, relished in the moment, while the jury was excused and told where to pick up their paychecks. The "not guilty on all counts" verdict turned out to be somewhat bittersweet for Lillard, however, as Judge Allison T. Burleson then took over for the second part of Lillard's trial, the probation revocation bench trial, which didn't involve a jury. Instead, as the "lead fact finder in the case," Burleson concluded that Lillard violated the terms of his probation during the May 2019 incident.
"I revoke your probation for the balance of your sentence, which runs through Oct. 15, 2030," the judge said. "You'll have to do as much of that as the parole board orders you to serve."
Burleson made it clear that she and the jury had a very different opinion.
"I've come to quite a different conclusion than what the jury has come to," she said. "It is quite clear to this court that the only person you were concerned with that night, May 11, 2019, was yourself."
Lillard then was handcuffed by a sheriff's deputy and ushered out of the back of the courtroom and back to the Baldwin County jail. In the coming weeks, he's expected to be transferred to the Georgia Diagnostics Prison in Butts County, which is the state of Georgia's "sorting prison," and from there he'll hurry up and wait and hope to get a Parole Board hearing.
Although it's conjecture, based on the fact that he's already served 35 months behind bars, Lillard likely will be out sooner rather than later, relative to the 2030 date referenced by the judge. Basically, his fate is now in the hands of the state's Parole Board.
Lillard's son, Carson, became teary-eyed and emotional, as lead prosecutor described the other man involved in the case, Clark Heindel, who committed suicide after the May 2019 incident. Carson Lillard was a good friend of Heindel's and was actually at the trial to support the Marinanne Shockley family, and Carson Lillard has maintained that he believes that his father killed Shockley, and he feels strongly about that. Shockley's family, meanwhile, became emotional after the not guilty verdicts were read, several family members visibly angry and upset.
So, how'd that happen?
The jury, including alternates, was comprised of five black males, four white males, three white males and two white females. They only needed around one hour to come back with a verdict.
Essentially, you need all 12 primary jurors to convict, which didn't happen. Tucker did a solid job of poking holes in the prosecution's case and also did a good job of confusing the jury, throwing out a variety of different theories and possibilities and what-ifs.
Lead Prosecutor Nancy Malcor also did a solid job, but that fact that none of Lillard's DNA was found on Shockley's skin and none in Shockley's "sexual assault kit" possibly had an impact on the jury. Malcor contended no DNA was present because the sex occurred in the hot tub. Part of Malcom's closing arguments can be viewed in the video immediately below. Malcor blasted Lillard in the closing arguments, accusing him of preying on vulnerable women and becoming violent with them during sex.
"Just got out of rehab? Hey, come with me! Just got a divorce? Hey, come with me," the prosecutor said.
UPDATED: 3:30 Friday afternoon
The prosecution called its final witness on Friday afternoon and “rested” at around 3 p.m.
Attention then turned to the defense, and the judge asked Marcus Lillard if he wished to testify on his own behalf. Lillard relayed to the judge that he did not. The defense is opting not to call any witnesses in the case.
The judge is now prepping the prosecution and the defense for closing arguments, which should begin within an hour or so.
An awkward situation arose this afternoon during a recording of a jailhouse phone conversation that Lillard had with his mother. In the audio, Lillard is heard saying “Matt sucks” and “Matt’s a dumbass,” referring to his lawyer, Matthew Tucker, who was sitting right beside Lillard when the audio was playing. Several jurors began trying to hold back their laughter, as did some other people in the courtroom. Lillard patted his lawyer, “Matt,” on the back in an attempt to be reassuring and play it off.
UPDATED: WEDNESDAY EVENING
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following update was compiled and written by Gabrielle Duchateau.
Wednesday marked Day No. 2 of the Marcus Lillard trial in downtown Milledgeville.
The morning consisted of testimony from the forensic pathologist who was assigned to the case, Dr. Melissa Sims-Stanley. The jury was shown pictures from the autopsy of Marianne Shockley. The pictures shown to the jury provided images of hemorrhaging in the soft tissue of the throat and tongue areas. These are injuries “consistent with manual strangulation,” according to Sims-Stanley. She also defined manual strangulation as using limbs or “one or both hands” to compress the neck. It could not be concluded if one or two hands were used to strangle the victim.
It was also stated that the victim, Shockley, also had injuries like broken ribs and bruising on the abdomen which was consistent with CPR. Bruises on the victim's arms and legs were also said to be consistent with carrying the body.
Although Shockley had other injuries, broken ribs, bruises on the abdomen, and a disputed amount of ecstasy in her system, Sims-Stanley said on the record that “this case showed the classic signs of manual strangulation” and “those hands deliberately compressed the neck.”
A sexual assault kit was done in the autopsy on the victim's body, as well. They did not find anything.
In the second half of the day, the jury heard from multiple witnesses who remain anonymous due to the sensitive content of their testimony.
There were six in all. All the female witnesses said they were choked by Lillard during sex or had his hands on their necks, some consensually and some non-consensually. Some became unconscious while being choked. One witness said Lillard choked her “to see her reaction” and stated “he liked rough sex. That was his thing.”
Many of the witnesses also stated Lillard would drink or use drugs like cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, and one witness said “crack-cocaine.” Some witnesses participated with Lillard in the illicit activities.
One male witness, meanwhile, testified about previously making a statement to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations that he warned Lillard that choking women could be dangerous but it was unclear if the witness made the statement with a clear mind. He stated that he was high while speaking with the GBI and his “brain was clouded” due to a tragic event. His answers were all unclear saying he “maybe” or “probably” said what was on the report.
UPDATED:2:28 p.m. // Wednesday, April 6
Day No. 2 of testimony in the Marcus Lillard trial continued Wednesday morning on the fourth floor of the Courthouse downtown.
Prior to the trial, there wassome speculation about whether or not any national media would show up. On Wednesday, a producer named Ryan Smith with CBS' "48 Hours" attended the trial and will document the proceedings. Aside from that, however, the media in attendance has been limited to local and Macon.
Several witnesses were set to testify on Wednesday afternoon, all former sexual partners of Lillard. The testimony is relevant, based on the fact that the District Attorney's Office is contending that Lillard unintentionally "manually strangulated" his girlfriend, Marianne Shockley, while engaging in sex in May 2019.
Toxicology reports also were revealed. Lillard tested positive for cocaine, while Shockley's blood alcohol content was .11. Shockley also had a relatively high amount of "ecstasy" in her system, according to the toxicology reports. The third man there that night – Clark Heindel – also had ecstasy in his system during his autopsy. Heidel committed suicide in his bedroom shortly after law enforcement arrived on the night of the incident.
WMAZ/Channel 13 did a solid job of recapping the first day of testimony, which can be reviewed below...
Shockley was a University of Georgia professor and Lillard's girlfriend. The pair first met years ago while Shockley attended Georgia College. She grew up in Morgan County and Lillard in Johnson County.
Lillard is going on trial for one count each of felony murder, aggravated assault involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct. He is facing several hurdles. First, he already was on “first offender probation” when he was arrested in May 2019. He previously had been sentenced to 20 years on probation following a drug bust in his office at a local car dealership, where he was working at the time. First offender probation means that a judge, in theory, can “re-set” the entire 20-year sentence and order Lillard to prison, even if he’s found not guilty on the murder charge but guilty on a lesser charge.
The case is one of the strangest in recent memory, not just around here, but anywhere in Georgia. According to Lillard's first few interviews with detectives back in 2019, he said that he and Shockley then arrived at the rural home of Clark Heindel around 7 p.m., where they smoked some more marijuana, according to interviews. Lillard and Heindel then began playing the bongo drums and the accordion. Eventually, Lillard and Shockley disrobed and jumped in the pool, according to Lillard's statements, while Heindel hung out closer to the porch of his house. Lillard denied having any sexual contact with Shockley that night, and he insists that “they just kissed.” During each of Lillard’s first two interviews, he asserted that he eventually decided to walk around the woods and gather firewood for roughly 15 minutes. After returning, Lillard said that he found Shockley unconscious in the hot tub. At that point, Lillard asserts, he picked up Shockley and dropped her in the deep end of the pool in an effort to resuscitate her. In the process, Shockley sustained a head wound, asserted Lillard, adding that he then swam with Shockley to the shallow end and carried her up out of the pool.