By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Twelve jurors and three alternates take their seats today to decide if admitted murderer David Neal Cox Sr. dies or spends the rest of his life in prison.
The 41-year-old Pontotoc County man pleaded guilty Aug. 15 to the May 14, 2010, shooting death of his estranged wife, Kimberly Kirk Cox, 40, at her sister’s home in Sherman.
This jury of five men and 10 women will decide only what sentence he gets. Circuit Judge John A. Gregory will not make that decision because Cox’s attorneys did not give up the jury’s role.
Gregory told the new jurors the trial could run into Saturday.
“You’re going to hear some bad things, some very bad things, some involving children,” defense attorney Kelsey Rushing told some 149 prospective jurors late Tuesday, the second day in the jury selection process which started with 450 called to the Union County Courthouse.
The two days of jury selection, at $40 per person per day, comes to about $20,000 – a cost Union County must bear.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore said it’s not unusual to take two days to pick a criminal case jury.
Today, various witnesses are expected for each side. Some will be family members to testify about the overnight hostage situation in Sherman where Kim Cox died and the kidnapping and other crimes associated with the standoff with police. Others are expected to speak for Cox’s mental state and other mitigating factors.
Cox also pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping, burglary, firing into a dwelling and three counts of sexual assault involving at least one of two minor children.
Capital murder is charged when a death occurs during the commission of another felony, in this case, kidnapping.
Earlier Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Luther painstakingly questioned potential jurors about their ability to be “fair and impartial,” especially in their openness to the death penalty.
Dozens in the jury pool proclaimed their support for the death penalty or their opposition to it. Others, dozens, asked to speak to Gregory in private about their personal issues relating to the sentence trial.
Other defense attorneys are T.R. Trout of New Albany and Andre de Gruy of Jackson. De Gruy and Rushing work for the state Office of Capital Defense.
Until they reach a sentence verdict, the jury and alternates will spend each night in a local motel.