Attempting to sum up the Marcus Lillard trial in roughly 600 words

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Quite a bit of information came out during the Marcus Lillard murder trial, and quite a bit has been written about the Marcus Lillard murder trial. 

With this in mind, here's an attempt to streamline the information and recap the trial, in around 600 words.


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Marianne Shockley died in a hot tub on May 11, 2019. Both the prosecution and defense lawyer agreed about this. How she died, though, was the crux of the trial. 

The prosecution spent the week conveying to the jury, seven African-Americans and seven whites, that Lillard accidentally choked Shockley to death while having sex in the hot tub. Shockley's official cause of death, according to the Baldwin County Coroner's Office and GBI, was "manual strangulation." Prosecutors contend that when Lillard realized what happened, he panicked, gathered himself and walked into the woods. Both legal teams agree that Lillard spent an undetermined amount of time in the woods, based on the roughly four dozen ant bites and scratches on his legs. Lillard walked back into the yard and acted surprised to see Shockley lying lifeless in the hot tub, according to the prosecution, and alerted Heindel. Lillard then took Heindel's phone and used it to call a number of friends and acquaintances, asking for tips on CPR. A 911 call wasn't made for roughly two hours after Lillard had the phone, according to court records. The prosecution put six different women on the stand who told jurors that Lillard chocked them or attempted to choke them in the past during sex. One woman said that she was choked unconscious.

The defense, meanwhile, spent the week attempting to poke holes in the story and played nothing but defense. Lillard never testified, and his lawyer, Mattew Tucker, never called any witnesses. Tucker portrayed a botched investigation, where some things were tested for fingerprints and DNA, while others were not. The crime scene was left largely unattended overnight in the rain.

It also didn't help when a GBI investigator told the jury, point blank, that "I lied" to Lillard about finding DNA on Shockley's body during an interview following the May 2019 incident. None of Lillard's DNA was ever found on Shockley's body during the autopsy, or in the "rape kit." Lead prosecutor Nancy Malcor told the jury in closing arguments that no DNA was detected because, "well, they were in a hot tub."

Tucker took the jury in many different directions and laid out several alternate theories. One was that Shockley overdosed in the hot tub, a result of the high levels of MDMA/ecstasy and alcohol in her system. The autopsy revealed that Shockley had an enlarged heart and vomit in her system. Also, Tucker proposed that Heindel could've possibly drugged Lillard and Shockley and killed Shockley while Lillard was in the woods getting bit by bugs. The "manual strangulation" and marks on Shockley's neck, according to the defense lawyer, could've possibly been results of Lillard feverishly attempting to resuscitate her and give her CPR after finding her in the hot tub, lifeless.

In the end, the jury needed less than an hour to reach a verdict, a shock to just about everyone in the courtroom.

Not guilty on all four counts.

At this point, there are two remaining points of intrigue. First is how long Lillard will stay behind bars. It could be a year or two, or it could be eight, after the judge revoked the balance of his first-offender felony probation, stemming from a drug trafficking arrest several years ago. Secondly is who all from around town will the producers of CBS' 48 Hours interview and feature in its segment on the case, which likely won't air until sometime late this year or next year. With a four-person production crew and massive camera and mic posted up in the courtroom, the rumor going around the courthouse was that the 48 Hours production crew definitely is paying for interviews, sometimes handsomely.

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