For those closest to the case, the murder of Samuel Christian Poss, an 18-year-old computer whiz who played drums in the Perry High School marching band and who had aspirations of joining the Navy, was a mystery for less than a week.
Poss vanished from his father’s house in mid-October 2016 during the Georgia National Fair. His disappearance and the search for him captured the attention of locals and attracted extensive coverage from news outlets across the region.
Within four days or so, the police made an arrest and obtained an explicitly detailed confession from one of the two teenage suspects. While some pertinent and troubling particulars emerged publicly at the time, a full telling of the episode never emerged. Until Tuesday when Dakota Lamar White went on trial.
White, who was 17 when the killing happened, admitted to police his role in strangling Poss. He also led the authorities to Poss’s corpse.
From the outset, largely because of his confession, there was little doubt that White would be found guilty. And on Wednesday, he was. A jury of 10 men and two women deliberated for all of maybe 15 minutes.
White’s own lawyers hardly challenged the state’s allegation that White choked the life out of Poss while a friend of White’s stabbed Poss with a knife. White didn’t take the stand, but in his confession he said he and his friend had entered into a suicide pact, and before killing themselves they wanted to see what it felt like to take someone else’s life.
White’s attorneys rested their case without calling a single witness.
A casual observer might wonder why White even bothered going to trial. Why he didn’t just plead guilty and spare everyone the trouble?
One answer could be that had he done so without a negotiated sentence in place, he would have largely hamstrung his avenues of appeal. (Should he be sent away forever, his lawyers could argue, as others have with some success, that because White was 17 at the time of the killing, sentencing him to life without parole amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.)
In essence, White’s defense team appears to have trumpeted his cooperation with the police in hopes that it will be looked upon favorably by the judge come sentencing.
The judge’s only likely options now are to sentence White to either life, and a minimum 30-year prison term, or life without parole.
During closing arguments, White’s lawyer, Angie Coggins, a court-appointed public defender, said, “Dakota cracked the case,” again reminding the court that the defense did not challenge the state’s claim that White was responsible for the killing. “His young life was so full of darkness that he thought suicide was the only option. … What Dakota did was wrong, but in the end he did right. … He confessed his sin.”
White, now 19, and an alleged accomplice, Brandon Warren, 20, who is set to stand trial next week, were accused of luring Poss to the home of White’s grandparents, then killing him by stabbing him nine times in the chest and abdomen and asphyxiating him with computer cables. Poss’s body was dumped in some woods off Lake Joy Road.
After his arrest, White said he and Warren had agreed to commit suicide together, but before doing so they wanted to know what it was like to take a life. He said that on the night of Oct. 15, 2016, they fooled Poss into joining them at White’s grandparents’ house on Tucker Road in Perry under the guise of helping White with some computer-game coding. Poss promptly agreed.
In his closing remarks, prosecutor Greg Winters described White and Warren as “two bullies” who chose to kill Poss “because he was easy.”
“You are here,” Winters told the jury, “because of (White). … You are here because Sam answered the call, and because Sam said, ‘I’ll come help.’”