|
The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Brooks found guilty of murder

  • A jury returned a split verdict Friday in the trial of an Elmira man charged with murdering a Corning resident last June, convicting Marland D. Brooks of one murder count but acquitting him of another.

    • email print
  • A jury returned a split verdict Friday in the trial of an Elmira man charged with murdering a Corning resident last June, convicting Marland D. Brooks of one murder count but acquitting him of another.
    Brooks, 39, was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, a lesser-and-included third-degree robbery count, and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The jury, which deliberated for about eight hours, found Brooks not guilty of so-called felony murder.
    Brooks faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced at 11 a.m. March 5 in Steuben County Court.
    Brooks killed 26-year-old Clark VanEtten on June 18 at VanEtten’s Park Avenue residence. VanEtten was stabbed twice in the heart.
    The prosecution alleged Brooks killed VanEtten in a drug-related robbery. The defense claimed Brooks acted in self-defense when he was attacked by VanEtten during a drug deal gone bad.
    Essentially, the jury determined Brooks killed VanEtten intentionally, then robbed him, District Attorney Brooks Baker said. The panel decided Brooks did not kill VanEtten in order to rob him.
    “(The jury) came back with a very solid verdict that fit the crime,”
    Baker said.
    Defense attorney David Morabito found the verdict unsettling because the prosecution’s theory was that Brooks killed in order to take money from VanEtten, not that Brooks decided to rob VanEtten after murdering him. Morabito plans to analyze the verdict and determine if it was repugnant, or one that’s contradictory.
    “I’m sure (Brooks) has very serious appellate issues,” Morabito said, adding that an appeal will be filed.
    VanEtten’s family was pleased with the verdict.
    “It feels like justice,” VanEtten’s sister Debbie Elliott said. “I hope (Brooks) rots in hell.”
    VanEtten’s mother, Suzanne Mitchell, said she was “relieved” by the verdict.
    “We miss you,” she said to her son through tears.
    Brooks, who stood steadfast as he heard his fate, testified in his own defense Thursday and said he went to VanEtten’s residence to sell him drugs, and when the deal soured, VanEtten attacked him with a knife. Brooks said he wrestled the knife away from VanEtten.
    “I was fighting for my life,” Brooks testified. “I thought I was gonna get killed.”
    Brooks also said he never stole anything from VanEtten. He testified that his girlfriend, Samantha N. Smith, was the one who stole VanEtten’s wallet after the killing.
    Smith, the only other witness to the killing, testified for the prosecution and said Brooks attacked VanEtten first. Smith, who testified in exchange for a 10-year sentence, gave conflicting testimony about the wallet and seeing a knife. She said she was high on drugs at the time of the killing.
    Page 2 of 2 - Peter Frank, who drove Brooks and Smith to VanEtten’s the night of the killing but stayed in his truck, testified Brooks told him he “punched the guy in the eye and took his wallet.” Brooks testified he never said that to Frank.
    Brooks, Smith and Frank all testified that they went to VanEtten’s because Smith said VanEtten would give her money. She owed Frank $400 because she had stolen drug money from him the day prior, according to testimony.

        calendar