In the morning disposition, Bartow County Juvenile Court Judge Velma Tilley sentenced the teen, now 16, who admitted to shooting 13-year-old Rob Taylor III on Dec. 29, 2010, to two years probation.
On the stand, the teen said he knew the gun was loaded but the shooting was an accident, according to those present in court.
Tilley addressed the Taylor family, saying that with probation she will have more control over the defendant’s sentence. Had Tilley committed the teen to a youth detention center, she said her control would have been removed. With probation, Tilley can oversee the boy’s counseling and therapy, and may extend the probation if she deems it necessary.
Outside the courtroom, the victim’s mother, Veronica Taylor, collapsed, sobbing, “He killed somebody. He killed somebody. He killed somebody.”
For Rob Taylor II, the outcome was not surprising.
“I’ll be honest with you, the feeling that my family gets … was that the outcome was already predetermined, that we wasted our breath,” said the victim’s father, Rob Taylor II. “We got blindsided, not only by the sheriff’s office and their lack of doing an investigation, but the judicial system let us down, too.”
Initially classified as an accident, the case was turned over to juvenile court in mid-2012. Although Rob Taylor said they agreed in the beginning with the findings, he believes evidence came to light that pointed to the case being mishandled.
“They have conspired to hide evidence in this case from the beginning because of Sheriff Clark Millsap’s association with the family and Jonathan Rogers’ association with the family,” Veronica Taylor said Wednesday. “They have been protecting the family, the killer, his family for 29 months. They have treated us like we were the criminals in this … and still my son gets no justice.”
On April 25, the BCSO released the following statement concerning the case, “In December 2010 a shooting occurred at a Cartersville home involving a 13 year old and a 14 year old. The Bartow County Sheriff's Office is issuing this statement because there seems to be a lot of false information circulating about the case. The shooting was investigated thoroughly and there was no evidence of the shooting being anything other than a tragic accident. The parents of the victim indicated to the Bartow County Sheriff's Office at that time they agreed it was an accident. Two years later, they began pressing for homicide charges and requested the case be reviewed. The case was reviewed by the Bartow County District Attorney who recommended it be filed in juvenile court. The case was filed in Bartow County Juvenile Court in August of 2012 and has been in the hands of that court's prosecutor since that time.”
Rogers, the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office lead investigator on the case, said after the ruling Wednesday that the case is a difficult one for all parties involved.
“This has, all along, been a case of involuntary manslaughter. We knew that in the beginning, and we tried, as best we could, to explain that to the Taylors. Whether they comprehended the full outcome of an involuntary manslaughter case, I don’t know, and even we can’t anticipate a juvenile case and what’s going to happen,” he said.
“We believe it was an accident, and nothing we’ve learned since then changes what we know as the facts of the case,” Rogers went on. “… We know that this young man, 14-year-old, pointed gun at the victim, and it was in his hands when it went off and killed Rob Taylor. Nothing has ever changed that. Of course, like the prosecutor said, is there some doubt that could be cast as to why the gun was pointed at him? Certainly, but there’s no proof of anything being other than kids being kids or kids showing guns to another kid.”
Rob Taylor said, however, that his son’s case was called the “political football that no one wanted to touch.”
“If it had been a black kid or a Hispanic kid, they’d been trying to get him out of jail, not put him in, but this boy was a white kid,” he said. “My son was white, Hispanic, and he didn’t stand a chance in Bartow County.”
From here, Taylor said he plans to seek the next course of action.
“I plan to sue the sheriff’s office. I’m going to try to sue the [district attorney]. I’m going to try to sue the juvenile prosecutor,” he said. “If you can be held accountable for selling a cup of coffee that is too hot to burn someone’s mouth …, why can’t the judicial system be held accountable for their blunders? Why can’t the sheriff’s office be held accountable for their blunders?”
See future editions of The Daily Tribune News for more on the Taylor’s case.