ATLANTA — Newly filed court transcripts show prosecutors complained about a teen defendant’s alleged gang connection less than four months before the teen was jailed on murder charges.
Before agreeing the teen has made progress during his probation, the judge handling the case referred to a prosecutor as a "cloud" and as the "4,000-pound gorilla" on the teen’s back. She went on to praise the teen for the progress he made in a rehabilitation program.
The case involves Jayden Myrick, who is now facing charges for the shooting death of Christian Broder. Broder was gunned down during an attempted armed robbery outside a Brookhaven country club wedding reception in July.
Myrick was no stranger to the Fulton County courts or Superior Court Judge Doris Downs. Previous reporting by Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlighted the prosecutors' repeated attempts to keep Myrick jailed amid troubling behavior following a 2015 conviction for armed robbery.
The reporting also examined Downs’ decision to place Myrick under the 24/7 care of a rehabilitation nonprofit that was not licensed to provide that type of supervision.
The group is used frequently by local judges and defended its program alongside supporters in the wake of trouble faced by program participants, including Myrick and a 2015 co-defendant.
Prosecutor described as ‘cloud,' ‘4,000-pound gorilla,' ‘white guy’
On March 12, prosecutors and defense counsel went before Downs to address a complaint filed by Assistant District Attorney Ryan Piechocinski.
Almost immediately following his jail release, Myrick was on social media posting gang symbols, Piechocinski alleged.
Myrick denied posting or even having access to his passwords and went on to tell the court about his progress helping other teens through the Visions Unlimited rehabilitation program, in which he was court-ordered to participate in as a part of alternative sentencing.
Downs told him,"That’s wonderful," and issued a warning to the teen, who appeared in court with the program’s CEO. The warning was about the prosecutor, whom she called "a cloud" over the teen.
Downs: He is the 4,000-pound gorilla, Mr. Piechocinski is. He is going to get you, so watch
out for him. Do you remember who he is?
Downs: The white guy that's always in here with pictures of you from Instagram, and he's got his card right here, and he's calling me constantly about you. That's the problem, OK. So let's make sure —— and let me have his stuff back.
The hearing concluded with Visions Unlimited vowing to clean up Myrick’s social media and Myrick delivering an oral report on Nelson Mandela to Downs. Downs also asked another assistant district attorney present in the courtroom to tell Piechocinski about Myrick's progress.
Neither the Fulton County District Attorney's Office nor Downs would comment on the transcript.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr took the transcript to former Fulton prosecutor and legal analyst Manny Arora.
“The judge was just somewhat being dramatic in saying, 'Look, they’re watching you. You’ve got to change your passwords or just get off social media altogether,’" Arora said, pointing out that Myrick was not facing new criminal accusations at the time of the hearing.
The repeated attempts by the district attorney's office to keep Myrick locked up are expected in most cases, he said, which can make arguments against probation lose their impact. He also pointed out Downs’ decades of experience as judge and a prosecutor dealing with similar cases.
“Their argument, almost 100 percent of the time in this office, is, ‘We object. We object. We object.' They don’t offer anything else and so it’s almost background noise," said Arora.
“I’ve worked in this office. I’ve dealt with this office. It’s always the same, no matter what the charge is. ‘Whatever the defense lawyer wants, we’re against it,’” he said. “And so it leaves the judge to their own devices and the judge relies on the counselors and this is 1 in a 100 type case where it didn’t work out.”
Civil rights and criminal defense attorney Gerald Griggs said Downs is known for working well with both sides in the courtroom.
“I think if you take a look at the totality of her calendar, you see a lot of individuals who were not reoffending and it’s because of the alternative sentences that she’s given,” Griggs said. “She was trying to give this young man a second chance, and the person to blame in this whole situation would be the person who committed the crime.”
Meanwhile, Broder's family has sponsored a petition to have Downs removed from the bench. The victim's father told Channel 2's Tom Jones that his son would still be alive if Downs had taken heed of warnings in court.
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