By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
• Follow Patsy Brumfield’s courtroom reports on Twitter @realnewsqueen #coxtrial.
NEW ALBANY – Judge John A. Gregory sent jury and spectators home to return Saturday morning for the sentence trial of admitted wife-murderer David Neal Cox Sr.
Court will resume at 9 a.m.
• • •
(Now, judge/attorneys work on instructions, judge will read them to jury, attorneys will make closing remarks and then jury will begin deliberations.)
• • •
3:31 – Judge back, jury returns. Defense announces it rests.
Luther – calls witness. Dr. Reb McMichael
DR. McMICHAEL – Physician, specialty in psychiatric and sub-specialty in forensic psychiatry. State Hospital at Whitfield, 27 years. Talks education, training.
(Luther – Forensic psych?) 20 years. TENDER HIS EXPERT AS FORENSIC PSYCHIATRYC. (What is it?) Deals with courts, trials, evaluations dealing with legal system. NO OBJECTION.
(Heard earlier testimony?) Not usual, but experts can do it to listen to opinions of other experts. (Heard Dr. Webb and Mr. Owens?) I did. (Familiar with David Cox?) I am. We were ordered by court to evaluate Mr. Cox last year. We did at State Hospital. Also get records of other evaluations. We scheduled an interview. See that in Admission Note. Evaluated other reports. (Then what?) Bring patient in for interview. If we can’t answer questions based on interview, then person is admitted as was Mr. Cox.
(Attempt to begin process?) We did. Mr. Cox was, in my opinion. was malingering – faking or exaggerating real symptoms. We decided to admit for inpatient observation and treatment. He complained about pain, depression. Had him seen by another physician. Attempted to assess his depression. Complicated because he continued to malinger. Hard to tell how depressed he was or his pain. (Why thought he was malingering?) Several things. One, we were aware he was getting disability payments for back injury and working at same time. That indicated history of malingering. That’s faking or exaggerating. Surgeon in this area said Cox’s complaints of pain were way out of proportion to his underlying physical problem.
(What else?) We asked him, for example, what year it was. He said summer. We knew he knew difference. He had work history, had to keep up with distance logs, fuel logs. No indication that he didn’t now difference between year and season. Asked birthday – 1970. Did not know month or date. Somewhat unusual for working 40 -year-old. Asked again, he said 1970. Clear he was not being straight with us. Asked him to recall words …. thought his description of demons was unrealistic…. all these things indicated he was at least exaggerating. Gave him test for malingering. One of tests he agreed to take. This one, he scored a 12… cutoff was a 6. So he scored twice as much for faking.
(Other tests for malingering?) We did. REfused to take second test. (What did he take?) We did CT head scan. Reported by radiologist to be normal. Drew blood levels for meds in jail. Two of them had none detected. One recorded a floor, which was less than 0.2. So we knew he also could not be relied upon to tell us what meds he was taking.
(How long at STate Hospital?) About 2 weeks. (Typical?) Shorter … because we didn’t see any objective evidence that he was mentally ill. We looked for evidence of hallucinations. If somebody is hearing things and seeing things, especially disturbing, they look like they are hearing or seeing. They’ll often turn and look. Some people try to convince us that they aren’t mentally ill, but staff reports they hold conversations and have arguments by themselves in their own rooms. Mr. Cox never did that.
Another example, nurse was observing him, he was sitting calmly. When he saw her look, he started rocking back and forth. What we look for in malingering. At hospital, when psychologist starting testing, he told her he couldn’t read. She said we know you can. He said OK and read it. (Have legitimately mentally ill people there?) We do. (Behavior after coming into contact with some of those people?) They noted and reported that Cox was imitating some of our mentally ill and mentally challenged patients. His speech pattern was childlike, then later more childlike like one of our very mentally ill patients. BAbytalk, mispronounced some letters, say Me No Want to Talk to You. Wasn’t sounding that way when we admitted him.Was sounding that way two weeks later.
(Had other interviews with him?) We did. (What is NPO?) Nothing by mouth, used by medical folks. (Did he say he remembered anything about offense?) We did ask him, he said couldn’t remember. (Manic or drug-induced episode? Typical they remember nothing?) Heard about blackouts. It’s not unusual for genuine blackout for people to lose hours, can be longer. Bipolar and manic-depressive are same thing. (What is manic?) People have them, usually lasting days when they need less sleep, speech becomes very rapid, hard to follow they get grandiose, spend money they don’thave, do things ordinarily wouldn’t do. Can get paranoid, very irritable. They go in cycles. Usually alternates with depression. Usually last days or weeks.
(Unusual to happen in an hour?) It would be. (True bipolar, manic attack – would it be obvious?) I would think so. (Reviewed statements from people who dealt with Mr. Cox on date of incident. Other reports later. See comparisons?) Symptoms that could be mania before … lots of energy, irritability, lack of need for sleep – you can get with stimulant like meth or with mania. Interview next day, he did not look manic. Would not indicate bipolar disorder. Doesn’t just go away.
(Do people with manic attacks … generally not remember what happened or can they not believe they did what happened?) People with severe attacks can have memory impairment but it’s not usually like a blackout, not complete. Memory is a funny thing. Part is what you want to remember, part is I can’t believe I did something like that. Manic episode … usually have some memory, often incomplete. More, it’s I can’t believe I acted that way.
(Do you have an opinion about Cox?) I do. My opinion … that Cox was malingering when I evaluated him. (Opinion about whether in May 2010 or today that Cox suffers from any major disorder?) My opinion… that he is not presently and was not then suffering from major mental disorder, including bipolar disorder. (Explained by meth?) No.
TROUT TO CROSS EXAMINE 4:03.
(When patient comes in to forensic unit, do you administer lots of tests? Protocol?) Reviews information …(PRB – he’s going through same things told Luther.) Cox refused to take some tests. He was not taking the three meds we measured. (That was what was?) … doctor tells him which… not taking meds he said he was. Told Dr. Webb he was taking them and he wasn’t. (Strikes me as being uncooperative, is that uncommon?) It is not. You gave him a test about malingering… made some effort?) I don’t know, will look at her report. Can’t say he knew what the test was for. Just was uncooperative and refused to do it. (Doesn’t suggest he tried to fool someone, just that he refused to do it.) That behavior does not indicate malingering itself, no. (We’re here about is not an effort to determine anything about criminal responsibility. He’s already accepted responsibility. We’re here for some effort to understand why. Agree?) No. I think we’re here for the jury to decide whether or not he receives the death penalty. (I agree with that.)
(Not trying to present some kind of criminal defense, are we?) No. (Heard testimony in court today?) Yes. (Mrs. Houston trying to get him to go to sleep. Did you hear that?) Yes. (Consistent with meth use?) Yes. (Could be with manic episode?) Think it could be. (You said your team you didn’t make a diagnosis of manic-depressive disorder?) Right. (Can’t say Dr. WEbb’s diagnosis is incorrect?) Right, to make it have to rule out or exclude other conditions such as meth use. I did not Hear Dr. Web say how he did that. (I don’t think you opined that this event was manic or drug induced.) He said could be drugs, could be bipolar but he thought it was bipolar. I can say Dr. Webb is incorrect with his diagnosis.
Let me try to be clear. For diagnosis, had to exclude other more likely explanations and I don’t think Dr. Webb did that. Webb said it was bipolar. I disagree with that. (I know in your history that you took at outset with Mr. Cox, you noticed something about him but didn’t follow up on it.) He reported a history of inhalants. (I saw nothing to suggest that you pursued that.) Not sure what we would have done to pursue that use 15 years previous. (But didn’t try to make any determination if it had any present impact on his behavior.) Again, I’m not sure what you are suggesting. (That would be his history was important for you to know. ) Yes sir. (Also impact on his behavior or overall condition?) It could. (Didn’t see any comments about that determination, nothing in report from MSH that you followed up on inhalant history to see if it was relevant to mental state.) We did give CT scan to see about structural changes in his brain. No blood levels or anything.
(Dr. Webb said would be better for before and after scans?) In case of gross structural changes in the brain, you don’t need before and after. Something big enough to show up on scan. Stroke, doesn’t need before scan. If huffed gasoline every day for 10 years,they may not have structural brain changes. Mr. Cox did not. (Brain changes?) See in a static image like a CT scan. (Disagree with Webb?) Agree with him that some damage may not show up. DONE 4:25
LUTHER – (Based on your training and experience … that he huffed for 10 years, expect him to be a husband, a father and long-haul driver?) I would not. (Asked bipolar or meth use? Know any reason that meth use … symptoms of bipolar… won’t be explained by meth use?) I don’t. (Anything says it wasn’t bipolar?) When ..he had periods of time… from arrest to now… he’s presumably separated from drug use, he’s not exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder. Not reported to me.
(One says bipolar or drug use, or combination? Are some people just mean?) Some are mean and it could be combination or some inhalant abuse, and some mood disorder and some meth abuse on top. Other factor, I considered was that Mr. Cox was attempting to present himself as experiencing something other than what he actually was experiencing. (In May 14 2010 … any sign he suffered from mental disorder?) In my opinion he did not.
STATE DONE. 4:28
JUDGE – STATE RESTS, MUST WORKON INSTRUCTIONS. RECESS. BREAK 20 MINUTES.
• • •
NEW ALBANY – Defense witness, Ridgeland psychiatrist Dr. Mark Webb, said admitted murderer David Neal Cox Sr. suffers from bipolar or manic-depressive disorder.
He also told the Union County courtroom this afternoon he changed his mind about whether Cox was insane or not when he fatally shot his wife, Kim, and held others hostage in Sherman in May 2010.
(Below is a running account of this afternoon’s court action:)
• • •
1:41 P.M. – Judge back. Attorneys, defendant. Jury returns.
DEFENSE CALLS DR. MARK WEBB
(RUSHING TO QUESTION)
WEBB – Physician specializing in psychiatrist, Ridgeland. Hired by defense. Talks about education, training. Says he treats patients, but spends about 10% of time testifying in trials and working with lawyers. Hasn’t published in past few years. TO TENDER AS EXPERT IN PSYCHIATRY. No objections.
(Rushing – Examined, evaluate David Cox) Twice. (How evaluate?) Looked at statements, police report. Dr. McMichael records. First visit, six weeks after incident. Had family practice records only. (McMichael is doc saw at state hospital?) Yes. Heard testimony in court today. Sister’s testimony about his mental state before incident – not sleeping, not acting right, talk about suicide. I felt it backed up my diagnosis that David Cox has a bipolar disorder.
First visit, July 9, 2010. Initial diagnosis – 1-2 hours with him, trying to get to know him. I was evaluating him like a patient. Why is he there? What’s going? His bizarre behavior, talking about demons, death, suicide – something going on with Mr. Cox. (Here to talk about mitigators?) Yes. Mitigation is looking at issue relates to sentencing, person and what’s going on with them, help jury make decisions. (Different from competence?) Yes. (Second visit?) Had more information and records. (Heard Mr. Owen talking about huffing gas. Explain to jury what that means.) Idea that it’s absorbed by lung and taken to brain. Causes damages. More use it, goes to permanent damages. Psychiatrist looks at issues it causes. Can cause mood swing, erratic behavior, irreversible brain damage.
(Test to see brain damage?) Would have to be pretty significant damage to be detected – by machines. No picture of his brain prior to drug use, so hard to compare. (Would need when he was 13-14 years old?) Yes. (Organic brain syndrome, what is that?) It’s somewhat imprecise. Means brain changes for some reason = trauma, drugs. Psychiatrists like to look for more specifics for cause. We’re looking for changes that may be causing the symptoms.
(Also today, regressive …?) Talking about person’s reasoning. Ability to think out future, consequences. With damage, it limits that hypothetically. Little kids do that, but with maturity, we forego that. (If start using inhalants …….. uh, when is brain fully developed?) INto 20s. (At age 15 and using inhalants, would that alter growth of brain? It appears to. Toxic, lack of oxygen, Damages brain. Can be temporary or permanent. (In this case, if he’s huffing for 10 years, more likely lead to something permanent?) Longer you do it, more permanent. (Across the 10 years, would his reasoning be affected?) It could. Those are very big periods in our lives. We know any drugs will stunt that, if used in excess.
(Talk more about crystal meth. Did he talk with you about that?) He talked about demons, said Kim had demons, others had demons. If I’d seen him while he was using, I think it was more bipolar. His mind was playing tricks with that. Don’t know about chronic use of inhalants. That or bipolar disorder. (Heard about school failure, bullying. What part played?) It hampers development. His self-esteem was very poor. Impoverished childhood. Affects you – very upleasant for Mr. Cox. (Could be a reason he started huffing?) Typically kids use something to feel good, to self-medicate. Food, drugs, gambling. No thoughts about how could hurt him down the road. (Also heard testimony … where David might have tried to get help?) It appears … in about 2008, North MS Med Center shows suicide risk evaluation. Got meds, Later saw general physicians – mind racing, anxiety. Put on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds. Someone had set up an appointment for him to get counseling, but appears it never happened.
(Charlotte talked about suicidal conversations with her. About his psyche?) That’s not good. They’re in distress, not doing well. He is hitting rock bottom, talking about death, wanting to die. Leads us to conclude he wasn’t doing well. (Agitated etc.) Drugs or bipolar disorder – both have those symptoms. (Whatever?) He was not at a good stage. (Hours leading up to this … that he may not have been sleeping?) It’s indicative of drugs, especially crystal, or of manic depression when you can go days without sleep. Effect is drastic. A day or two or three … is very difficult.
(Conversations … about David and son’s relationship. Your eval of him… why he had different relationship with boys?) He was more of buddy or friend to kids. Let me now he had not matured to now difference in being a father to his kids, more of a friend or buddy. Let me know, either due to drugs or manic-depressive illness that he never really matured. (Owen talked about his interview and had this childlike speech pattern. What is that?) Could be about immaturity. It’s rare, but they an change their voices and assume other qualities. Manic speeds up, his was child voice. (These changes … would extreme stress or duress cause them?) It can or can be part of the distress. He definitely was under stress after, and certainly before crime.
(Stress?) Going to doc, taking medicine, etc. speaks to fact that he was under duress. (After happened, David claimed he didn’t recall. Can you explain how that’s possible?) Possibility of someone on drugs or that mani-depressives can get to such a state that they go through episodes they won’t remember details. I don’t know why he’s saying, but I feel like it’s one of those two. (Given right stressors, this could be one episode that will be forgotten?) Yes, manic-depressives can literally forget things, mind is racing so. (Your opinion this is what happened on May 14?) Yes, history leads me to believe it was more mental. (Whatever it was, nothing normal about it?) No. (Talking to sister about suicide? Normal?) No, not at all.
(Listened to 911 calls … saw evidence we sent to state hospital?) Yes. (Still opinion it was a manic state?) Extreme duress, psychological distress for some reason. (Could rants and rages be part of it?) Just delusional thinking, irrational behavior. (Read report of Dr. McMichael?) Yes. (Malingering?) Yes, that’s holding back to making a truthful presentation. (Do you think he was malingering?) No, it’s not. (Difference between legal competence and mitigating factors?) Yes. (But you’re talking about other factors to make this possible?) Yes, what I understand. Family history, reported drug use, possible brain damage, and bipolar mental illness – under extreme distress .. contributed to this incident.
(Says he doesn’t remember it?) Yes. (Not unusual?) No, not in manic-depressive illness. 2:16
LUTHER TO CROSS EXAMINE
(LUTHER – heard from you and Owen, a lot of terms … organic brain syndrome. I understand you’ve never diagnosed Cox with that?) Correct, it is an imprecise term. No diagnosis. Feel symptoms are better explained by other terms. (Manic-depressive disorder – is that your diagnosis or bipolar disorder?) It’s the same thing.
(First interviewed?) July 9, 2010. (Where?) Here at local jail. (You had no police reports, witness statements etc.?) No, only family practice reports … seen him months prior. Several documents, think it was 2 visits. I don’t have them with me. Family Practice Clinic in Pontotoc. (Why went there, mental health?) Not sure he went for that but they were noted in the report. (Pain?) I don’t have it in front of me. (Kelly gives him reports.) Appears … swelling to right knee in 2009. (Other indicators?) He went bak about a week later to re-check knee. No mental health issues. April 14, 2010. Blood pressure problems and headaches. Note insomnia, depression, unable to find work, wasn’t suicidal. Placed him on anti-anxiety medication.
(Relied on that … and what else, other than interview with him?) Other than years of experience, nothing else. (Didn’t rely on police reports, 911 call, family statements?) I didn’t have or they weren’t available. (After 2 hours visit, what did you learn?) That he had problems, some oddities – seeing demons, death thoughts, racing thoughts – had sought some help earlier. Didn’t know about huffing then. Talked about crystal meth. Said hadn’t used drugs or alcohol in over a year. (When was first time anybody talked about huffing?) McMichael and Owen reports. (Family mentions?) No. (Talk to Cox, he told you about demons for how long?) About 10 years. He said they were about 5 feet tall, had no eyes, came out mostly at night. (Did anybody at jail or family, law enforcement, prior med professionals, etc. that he ever expressed seeing or hearing demons?) At that time, no. (As of this time?) Other than McMichael notes, I don’t think so. (Other than David Cox, has anyone else ever talked about his seeing demons?) Not that I recall. (Anyone else ever told about physical manifestation of his seeing demons?) He desribes terror and fearful. Sister described that he was having odd behavior. But nobody talks about demons except Mr. Cox.
(Anybody reported that Cox responded verbally or physically to demons?) No. (After your interviews and paragraph from doctor … without relying on any other documentation… did you form an opinion?) That he had bipolar disorder, manic-depressive illness. History of crystal meth use. (Prior to one year of seeing him?) Correct. (Considered his ability to work on his own defense? …. said he was not competent to help attorneys?) Agree. Correct. (You said on night of May 14, 2010.. did he know difference between right and wrong?) I thought he did not.
(Later change opinion?) Yes. (Why?) Came back and saw him about a year later. He’d calmed down, still had some odd thoughts. Improving, Saw interaction with attorney. Believed he could work with them. When first saw him, he couldn’t tell me anything about crime. But later, believed he did know difference between right and wrong. (No longer could rely on what Cox told you?) As relates to certain parts of competence and criminal insanity, correct.
(Board certified psychiatrist … not certified as forensic psych?) I am not. (Many similarities between person who’s truly bipolar and one under meth?) Yes, lot of similarities. (How can one distinguish?) Ideally, like urine drug screen, substance abuse history, blood. May be multiple causes for odd behavior. (As to huffing, long- and short-term effects. Short?) Short-term are intoxication, euphoria, dizziness, sense of wellbeing, come and go. Similar to alcohol. Many times it will hurt you. (Understood this was over a 10-year period?) That’s what I understood. (Review family statements, ? Ever see anyone say Cox was intoxicated during that 10 year period?) Linda said he was acting very odd. Whispering, hyper. Could be intoxication. (For short-term effects of huffing from ages 15-25. See any reports from anybody saying daily or any time that he was intoxicated?) No, I did not. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t using. (Expect in 10 years, somebody would notice?) Possibly, don’t know if that question was asked. Not everybody has intoxications. (Can you huff daily and not get drunk?) Yes. (When you talked to Cox in 2010, what did he talk about?) He had child-like talk, stammer at times, sometimes it was normal. Don’t recall baby-talk. (Review 911 tapes.Was that baby talk or child-like?) No.
(On July 9 … did he remember what happened? Is that something that can come and go?) Not typically. (Rare for person to tell someone else facts of what happened, if they said they didn’t remember what happened?) Rare, but if you’re told story enough, you could. Typically rare. (Say, I don’t know why he said he didn’t remember?) Didn’t know if it was manic or drug related. (July 9, 2010, impressions not based on meth use?) Correct, that he had not used for a year.
(Another opinion said wasn’t competent… then, Sept. 29, 2011 report … had gone to state hospital and reviewed there. Did you review facts he said didn’t know how old he was?) I wouldn’t dispute that. (Did you review fact that age story was date of CT scan?) Didn’t know that. (Review n same setting where didn’t know age or year … when told he was going to get a CT, he asked if would be NPO?) Yes, that’s latin for “nothing by mouth.” (Surprised you? About that?) A little surprising, but I wasn’t there. (Malingering?) Person who gives off certain false impressions. (He refused malingering test?) Saw that. (Made high score on malingering?) Saw that. (See where he mimicked speech pattern of handicapped person? Malingering?) It points toward that.
(Final diagnosis of Cox was bipolar disorder?) Correct. History of inhalant and meth use. Didn’t diagnose anything else. No meth or alcohol one year prior to seeing me. (Some reference about organic brain syndrome … you make no such diagnosis for Cox?) Correct, I do not. I did not. when I heard about McMichael’s notes and Owen comments, brings up questions about source of bipolar disorder. (Mentioned report from N MS Medical Service … said he was not suicidal?) Didn’t see the records. DONE 2:53 P.M.
RUSHING TO RE-DIRECT …
(Followup questions … organic brain syndrome came from another report. You read it but your testimony is that it’s bipolar.) Correct, OBS is not precise. With history of inhalant use, I don’t discount idea of permanent brain changes on chronic use basis. OBS is an old term in psychiatry. (Also, CT scan … must have something to compare?) Yes, to compare it with our humongous changes. (One scan … ?) Results would be speculative. (If person is hallucinating, who sees it?) No one except that person. (People around won’t see it?) No, they are not.
(In first report, your initial visit?) Yes. (Opinion just on what was before you?) Yes. (Can you change your opinion with more information?) Yes. (Swa him again a year later/) Yes, over a year. (First visit, said hadn’t done drugs for year prior?) Yes. (When you saw all the reports, saw tapes. What was opinon?) At time of his arrest, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t on anything. Manic depressive can look very very crazy without drugs, but I think something was going on. Some kind of duress. (Consistent with meth?) Yes, meth or manic depression. (Odd about no memory. Could drugs come into play?) It could, or he was not thinking clearly. (First interview, reason hadn’t done drugs or alcohol because he had been in jail?) Could be. (Difference in someone being addicted and being sober?) People can still be addicted, even if they haven’t used lately. Most definitely. (When decide to take that drug again, what happens?) Typically when they relapse, it’s pretty bad.
(NPO?) Means nothing by mouth. (Would it be surprising for someone to know that phrase?) Possible. Probably threw that word around at state hospital and he picked it up. (Childlike voice … still incarcerated?) Yes. Second time saw him he’d been to state hospital. On suicide watch. He didn’t take all the tests they offered him at the hospital. DONE 3:06
JUDGE – LET’S TAKE BREAK 10 MINUTES.
• • •
10:35 A.M. – Judge, attorneys back in courtroom. Luther tells judge that experts to come up. One is in courtroom, Let record reflect that. Jury returns.
DEFENSE CALLS JOHN OWEN
(RUSHING TO QUESTION)
OWEN – Alcohol and drug counselor, working in field 30 years, Counseling for 20 years. Tells about education, training. Certified addiction specialist. Seen hundreds of patients over past few years. Can speak to how drugs affect individual people. Has testified numerous times. (RUSHING – tenders him as expert witness.)
LUTHER – Asks if he will talk about medical diagnosis? Would object, if so. (Rushing – what he knows about effects.) JUDGE – ACCEPTED
RUSHING QUESTIONS OWEN
(Came in contact with Cox?) Your office contacted me and I evaluated him while he was in jail. Obviously, gathered information, taking a history from him. Used screening method. (Explain about that.) Point out that there is a scale … number wrong. Test used a lot in drug courts exclusively and also only test that MDOT recognizes. Used to determine if someone is a candidate for drug court. (Evals on drivers for MDOT?) Yes, but also other type workers.
(Explain how test works, what looking for in evaluation?) This test … looks for trends instead of face-value test. It works on answering patterns indicative of someone with a substance abuse problem … or doesn’t. Usually, someone will try to minimize their answers .. it will show that. (Gave test to Cox?) Yes.
(What showed?) His defensive skills picked up … trying to … a couple of things. Someone is lying or so nervous taking test that you’d get a high defensive skill. Everybody is anxious. His was way lower.
(You corrected something… we’ll ask what that was, relevance?) Face-valid other drug scale. I wrote in 43 when it’s 34. Highest number you can get is 26. (What means?) Its amount or frequency of drug usage. David’s score is 34. A lot of drugs.
(A few general questions about addiction. How does addiction work? Hooked on a drug, how does addiction happen?) Essentially, you can only get high on substance that body creates naturally. You begin to overload your body and get intoxicated. That’s usage. As addiction occurs … body builds receptor sites as more used. Tolerance goes up. Need more to get high. When drug isn’t there anymore … body stops producing natural thing, too many receptor sites … which is why you have withdrawal.
(A lot of talk in trial about what’s normal. Explain how someone appear “normal” but still have substance abuse problem?) Most of time, period of years, before family/co-workers start to recognize abnormal behavior. Can look normal for a long time until it’s obvious. Why it’s so prevalent … because you can’t see it first time somebody starts using. (Progressive?) Yes. (Person an walk, talk and have addition problem but still appeal “normal?) yes.
(Talk about working with MDOT. When you evaluate someone there, employee, have you ever evaluated someone because they weren’t acting normal?) No. (What is situation?) Positive urine scan. Some randomly. (Truck drivers using illegal drugs, driving on hghways. But appear normal except for drug screening.) Never had one referred to because of irratic behavior. Had it happen when worked for military, but not MDOT. Actually one, was pilot that forgot to put down landing gear.
Typically, the job is the last thing to show addiction. Addict knows job is where money comes from.
(Let’s talk about David. Procedure what you did with him.) Sat down and took family history. Took substance abuse or use history from him. Administered tests. Looked at tests. Then asked him more questions. (Evaluation, got idea about when drug use started?) About 15 years old. He reported started huffing at 15, did that for 10 years daily, he said. (Sniffing gas … for 10 years. Unusual?) It’s unusual for people who do that into their adult years. Other than David haven’t seen anyone else who did that, usually progressed to other substances. Longest stretch of huffing gas I’ve ever heard done.
(How huffing affects person?) Essentially makes you extremely intoxicated, similar to alcohol but attaches to oxygen, so you’re getting oxygen deprivation every time you do it. Get a little brain damage every time you do it. Drug teenagers tend to do. I’m not a neurologist … OBJECTION – HE’S NOT A NEUROLOGIST – (BENCH CONVERSATION) – JUDGE SENDS JURY OUT. 11:05
RUSHING asks questions again. (Will huffing at 15 affect development of brain going forward?)Yes. LUTHER – He’s not qualified to say that. JUDGE – OBJECTION OVERRULED. JURY COMING BACK.
RUSHING (Does huffing gas have an effect on brain’s development?) Yes. (At age 15, brain still developing?) Yes. (So, huffing affects 15-year-old brain going forth?) Yes. (In your report, talk about long-term effects of inhaling?) Learning issues, developmental issues in general, judgment, ability to be rational, impulsiveness. (Also talked about … acute psychosis and … OBJECTION – THOSE ARE MEDICAL – JUDGE CALLS THEM UP. –
RUSHING – (talked about acute psychosis and organic brain syndrome.) Psychosis is mental illness. OBS is what you see like in chronic alcoholic called wet brain syndrome. (Side effects of huffing?) Yes. (Also hallucinations?) Yes. (Huffing issues – something that stays in your system up to 10 years?) Yes. (Fair to say that … OBJECTION – WAIT FOR CROSS….)
RUSHING – (How old is he now?) He’s 41 or 42. (Almost 25 years ago?) Yes. (Gasoline 25 years ago …) Research says even unleaded gas has enough trace elements to get lead poisoning. (Either, traces of lead in your system?) Yes. (RESEARCH HAS SHOWN – OBJECTION – JUDGE GO AHEAD)
(Done research on gasoline?) Yes, I’ve done extensive reading about it. When it comes up with client is their problem. One thing for treatment is to educate them about how bad it is, what they’re doing. (DAvid not first person you’ve seen for huffing) No. (Includes gasoline?) Yes. (Did David tellyou about other drug use?) Told me he had some back problems and he had started taking pain pills … had from time to time abused them, at some point he discovered crystal meth. (About how long he did pain pills?) He said like 5 years but then he would say other things like he was still taking them other times.
Predisposition to addiction puts in position to being addicted to other things, like pain medication. Then we talked about crystal meth. Said he started using it 10 years. Every day for past 5 years. Crystal meth essentially makes your body produce extreme amt of dopamine… a stimulant. Developed by Nazis in WWI to keep their soldiers going and going, fighting and fighting. Later on as your usage progresses, paranoia and irritation. (What about paranoia?) It’s extreme paranoia, to the point … people call police on themselves, so freaked out that somebody was trying to break into their home. It’s called bending the blinds. Eventually they start seeing things.
Drug also causes sleep deprivation, which leads to hallucinations. Kind of a double whammy. (Talk about hallucinations?) VAries so much, hundreds of types. (David’s case?) He said as elves or gnomes … demons… and would see them in a barn, where he lived .. around his house, sitting in rafters, demanding various things of him. Didn’t go into detail about what they were saying. (You call them meth monsters?) Yeh.
Typically people lose weight, often have bad teeth. (Did David have that?) Yes, pretty distinctive discoloration. (We had some talks about memory or memory loss. Also about losing weight and hyperactivity. You say they are indicative of crystal meth?) Yes. (Let’s talk about mental problems?) Absolutely. With any mind-altering drug, even alcohol – heard about blackout, etc. – point at which your body can’t handle a substance. It hits overload, then your brain shuts down or part of it does. Mechanism, I don’t know. I know it’s true. (So possibly for “normal” acting person to come under influence and black out?) Yes. (Because of over-intoxication or other reasons?) Can be one, other, or stressor while person under influence. Or can be individually the amount. It’s hard to tell conditions for David, don’t know. (Heard enough, now research and circumstances – something extreme?) Yes. (Testimony you’ve heard and what you’ve learned about David … opinion he was under influence that night?) Yes. Crystal meth. (Extreme circumstances, could he have blacked out?) Yes. (Having blacked out … anything to do with memory loss?) No. (These are episodic?) Yes. 11:29
LUTHER – (Where do you get this information in report?) From the crime. (Who administers test?) I did. He could read it. Took him a long time but was able to complete it. (Information came from Mr. Cox.) Yes. (Say some people “fake” or try to “fake” it?) Yes, but aren’t successful. Test generally catches them. It will show. (When test?) Dec. 19, 2011.
(At that time, he was referredby attorney?) Yes. (What is malingering?) Making up symptoms, exaggerating condition. (Lower your intelligence?) Yes, that’s example. (Family history .. information about huffing?) Came from him. Didn’t talk with brothers and sisters. Reviewed the report. (Symptom of huffing … did brothers or sisters or anyone else … ever say extreme intoxication for this?) No. (Took his word for this?) I did. (Would you expect that a person who huffed gas for 10 years… for their family to know?) Not necessarily.
(Is symptom extreme intoxication?) Yes. (Said did it every day?) Yes. No one said they noticed, other than Mr. Cox. (Organic brain syndrome?) Medical condition, not medical doctor. (Said you’ve researched it?) RUSHING – MAY WE APPROACH?
(Luther continues – Do you have any training or experience in diagnosing organic brain syndrome?) None other than working under an additionologist in clinical setting where we treated all the time, and in reading I’ve done about it. (Under organic brain syndrome … may have tremors? In Cox?) No, didn’t see his hand shake. No staggering gait. Speech problems, yes. Almost infantile. (So, did you listen to 911 tapes before you talked to him?) I don’t think that I did. (So, your opinion … what all did you examine and rely on for opinions about Mr. Cox?) The test, his personal history, his legal issues – all sort of add up to what my opinion was. (What he told you?) Yes. (Personal history, what he told you?) Yes. Overall impressions, how he came across. (Review statement of his sisters, brother-in-law?) No. (Linda Carpenter?) No. (Any police officer?) No. (Hostage negotiators?) No. (Anyone other than David Cox and/or his family?) No. (How come to get personal history?) From his attorney. (Form?) memorandum. (Cox’s attorney wrote up and sent it to you, about Cox’s family?) Yes. (Ever speak to anyone in family?) No. (Hallucinations, blackouts, that kind of thing – is that getting to upper end of drug addiction?) Yes, I would. (Over a period of time?) Yes. (Expect no one to know about any of that until …?) Would be more symptoms but not necessarily that other people notice. Many times things happen that other people don’t see … and say, that’s not the Johnny I know. Denial isn’t just with patient, it’s with the family… often moreso.
(Blackouts … do they become incoherent?) No, often can’t tell. It’s astonishing how functional someone can look and not remember a thing. (Slurred speech?) No, especially not on crystal meth. (Didn’t talk to family … these demons Cox indicated he saw … did anyone else know about this? Psychotic episodes?) Uh, Mr. Rushing said he told him about it. (Family?) No. (When Cox told you about demons .. making demands of him, did he say he ignored them or responded to them or how reacted?) I’m not trying to be funny – he said all of the above, engage them, have conversations with them, other things. (Anyone else say he was talking to things not there?) No. (Did anyone else give you any indication he was hallucinating?) No.
(Most of your opinion based on what David Cox told you?) What he said and what I infer from what he told me. (To best of your knowledge, has anyone ever given Mr. Cox a brain scan or looked for physical evidence of brain damage?) I haven’t seen any. (Anyone ever gave him a lead test?) No. (Who were you working for?) Office of Capital Defense. (How often do they call you .. representing people in capital defense?) Maybe once a year. (Total case… OBJECTION – JUDGE – ASK HIM ABOUT …
(How many occasions has this office referred their clients to you?) OBJECTION – JUDGE, ASKING FOR NUMBER.
Over 5 years … 4 or 5. (How do you charge?) By hour, $130 per hour. (Anything other than what we’ve asked about … that you saw for your opinion other than what Cox told you, and attys summary?) No. 11:49
RUSHING – (You say you testify a lot?) Yes. Not just consulting for your office. This is my profession. (When evaluate someone … you were asked for drug/alcohol assessment on Cox. What you did?) Yes. (Not asked to determine facts of that night?) No. (Not asked to read reports?) No. (What happened that night…you were asked to make assessment of … how events of that night could have occurred through his drug addiction?) Yes. (Made that assessent?) Yes. (How person could function and not remember it?) Yes. (That he talked to several people …still within definition of blackout?) Yes, that is a blackout. Wouldn’t have changed definition of blackout. (Events that night?) Wouldn’t change evaluation. Only asked to determine if he had a drug addition. (Organic brain syndrome …you gave example with gait, speech … anything else?) Memory problems, bevy of cognitive problems – reasoning … thinking problems. Stunted reasoning … regressed reasoning, reason like a child. Can come from inhalants, other things. (Will lead in system, a contributor to syndrome?) One but not primary. Fact that you are depriving your brain of oxygen every time you do it. No way it wouldn’t be harmful. (For 10 years, a lot of damage?) Absolutely. (This brain damage would deal with cognitive, regressive reasoning?) Yes
(When you say, 55 yr old acts like 5 year old, that’s regressive reasoning?) Yes. (Someone who under influence of drugs would not be thinking rationally?) Yes. OBJECTION – LEADING – SUSTAINED
(How would they act?) Would act like a child. Throw fits if can’t have their Jello right now. Flip out on you. Impulsive, do what strikes them. OBJECTION – GONE WAY BEYOND SCOPE – JUDGE .. GOING TO BREAK AT SOME POINT.
They don’t look at the consequences of what they’re doing.
(Rushing – also deal with ability to control impulses?) Yes. OBJECTION – SUSTAIN. (Luther started down path of brain damage, I didn’t.
(Test you gave, where is your first source of information?) Initially from the person. (You testified you test to see if any type of deceit?) Yes. You can exaggerate on it in a statistical trend. Same for other behavior. (Your test has been tested?) Yes. (Comment about people in most denial are family?) Yes. (Heard sister talking about he was hyper? Crystal meth?) It can be. (His putting off sleep or doctor. Crystal meth?) It can be. Could be sign of drug habit. Suicidal ideations are very typical, a sign. (One sister said he lost a lot of weight? Sign of rystal meth?) Can be. (Signs were there?) Yes. (Unless person is trained like you wouldn’t know what looking at?) Not necessarily.
JUDGE – ASKS ATTYS TO APPROACH. 12:04 / Back at 1:35 p.m.
• • •
10:20 A.M. POST
NEW ALBANY – David Cox’s defense seeks to convince his jury that his life is worth saving.
Today, it began with several family members and friends who talked about his history with them and how much he loved his two young sons.
It’s the fifth day in his sentence trial to determine if the admitted killer of his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox, will spent the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death.
Cox, 41, also pleaded guilty Aug. 15 to two counts of kidnapping, burglary, firing into a dwelling and three counts of sexual assault on a minor child during a hostage situation May 14, 2010, at his wife’s sister’s home in Sherman.
Capital murder is charged when a death occurs during the commission of another felony crime.
Other charges Cox pleaded guilty to jail escape, burglary and burglary of a dwelling.
More than two years ago, the fatal standoff lasted across a Friday night and early into Saturday morning, when law enforcement officers finally entered the home and arrested David Cox without incident.
They found Kim Cox dead, apparently from loss of blood from two gunshots.
• • •
(Below is a running account of action in the Union County courthouse. Please excuse the typos and other glitches likely as I type testimony, etc.)
In court today: Circuit Judge John Gregory. Cox’s attorneys T.R. Trout of New Albany and Kelsey Rushing with the State Office of Capital Defense. Prosecutors District Attorney Ben Creekmore and Assistant Kelly Luther.
• • •
8:55 A.M. – Judge on bench. Jury to enter, take seats.
TROUT – Calls Hilda Smith, neighbor (She’s hard of hearing. Tells her to speak into mic.)
SMITH – From Louisiana but in MS for past 21 years. Live in Pontotoc. Married to Ramon Smith, who testified Thursday. Knows David Cox, met him in church then later we moved into his property. He had a trailer he was moving out and he wanted us to live in it and be near him so he could help us out. (Help us out?) Like,uh, we’re elderly and he was younger. When we had problems with water leak or something, he would come fix it for us. Sometimes mechanical problems with a car, would fix that. Help with heavy things. I love plants and flowers, trying to dig a hole, so he’d come over and dig holes for me. (Next to where he lived, for?) Ten years this month.
(So, y’all lived there before his boys were born?) Yes. She was pregnant with first one … she miscarried. Yeh, we were there. (Did you develop relationship with children?) Yeh. We spoiled them some, had them over sometime, always kept coloring books, crayons, movies they liked to watch. Treated them with pickles, candy, cookies – they loved cookies, and milk. (Observed David’s relationship with boys?) It was a good one, he loved them. They were inseparable. (Inseparable?) They were close.
(I know there was a time when your husband had stroke. Was David any help?) Yes, he had a stroke and a couple of other things, had to go to at VA in Memphis. He transported us there and helped out that way. (Anything else to share with jury to help them understand the David Cox you came to know?) Like I said, he was very helpful to us with different things around property. He was selling the trailer to us, but we still had a good bit to pay, and he said they didn’t need the money and they wrote a receipt for us that we were paid up. That was good for us, a blessing. He was good to use that way. He signed the property over to us.
(LUTHER – Remember, we’ve talked a few times in past. Safe to say you were friends with David?) Yes. (Loved the boys?) Yes, Little David and Jacob. Both special to us. Little DAvid has problems but we didn’t see it that way. (Seen them since this?) Only Little David. I have prayed and prayed that one day somewhere in grocery story or something that I would get to see them. Little David, his grandma had to take him to doctor in Tupelo. She went to Sam’s with him. I told husband I wanted to go to Sam’s and I was there and they were not very far. When I turned down aisle there she was with Little David. We hugged. He recognized me. Talked to him. He was doing good. He wanted to come home with me.
(Did you know the girl?) Yes, very much. Neighbor too. She was only 3 when we moved there. We saw her too. She loved pickles. Boys wanted cookies. 9:08
(Mrs. Smith weeping as she leave the stand.)
TROUT – CALLS LINDA CARPENTER, DAVID COX’S SISTER
CARPENTER – Lives in Lafayette County. David Cox’s half-sister. Six of us, mother married and father died. She remarried and had DAvid and Charlotte. Lists all siblings. (Tell us about your history with David.) I got along with him pretty much … our relationship was he depended on me to help him when he needed things … to talk or borrow money. I didn’t see him a lot. Moved away from them for many years. I married three days before I turned 16. He was about 7 or 8.
Had contact, 3-4 times a year. (What know about him as child.) He didn’t like school at all. He was tall for age and failed several grades, bullied a lot. He dropped out in 7th grade. Mother couldn’t get him to go. (Father?) They had divorced. (DAvid growing up?) Uh, he worked in some factories, not sure. Drove a big truck. (Aware David had sons after married Kim?) He loved them dearly, with him all time. In my opinion, I felt he was more good buddies than a father. Lot of times, I felt, he should have done other things. Most of time like buddies. Uh, for one thing, the babies were really overweight. I was concerned about their health – should put them on diet. They jsut let them eat whatever they wanted to. But then, I didn’t voice my opinion to them.
(Before Kim’s death, DAvid visited you?) He borrowed some money to pay the light bill. He came on porch and I hadn’t seen him in a while. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight, very hyper, voice … acting really to a point where we were a little bit scared of him. I asked him what was wrong? He said it was the pain patch on his back. I said you’ve got to get off this, you’re going to die. It wasn’t like him at all.
(Next time?) It was about a week before all this occurred. We talked about .. sitting on porch. Said he couldn’t remember last time he was there. I said, I can. When he was acting so hyper. (Talked about that?) Yes. He said he couldn’t remember. I can’t believe, he said, that he didn’t remember being there.
CROSS-EXAM BY LUTHER
(LUTHER – Who saw him more?) I’d say Charlotte. He lived with her. (David driving truck?) Yes. (Pain patch?) He had surgery on back and took pain pills, then put him on a pain patch. (When started disability?) Don’t remember exact time. 3-4 years before all this. Never got off disability. Still had back problems, as far as I know.
(On day of incident, did you see him?) No. (Know if he was with Michael Houston that day?) Yes. (Michael said he was normal, would you dispute that?) No. (Talked with David that day?) Yes. After incident started. My sister called and informed me. I tried calling him. He finally called me back. I asked him what he’d done. He said he shot Kim. (Recall statement to MHP investigator May 2010?) I do. (Shows her statement. She doesn’t have glasses so judge offers her his.) Says she can read it. (Luther points to line. What David said.) He told me that she was bleeding and uh I remember hearing kids .. in background. I asked him to let me talk to the girl. It was just 15 seconds. Then, one time he wanted me to call Bennie. Asked Kim for his phone number. I could hear her talking in background, Kim. (Statement, he said shot her and she was bleeding to death?) Yes.
(Did he say if he saw Jake that night?) He didn’t tell me that. (Refer you to statement.) Says he saw Jake in swing, stopped and told him to be quiet with finger up to his lips. Then, he shot through the door. (Tell you about Christy?) At first thought he shot her, said he shot her. He thought she was dead. (Did he intend to kill her?) I don’t recall that. (If Kim shooting accident?) He meant to shoot at her.
(You talked to the girl? Could you hear her?) Yes, I could. They were panicked, crying. Talked to her a few seconds. (What did David do?) He started cursing her, said give me phone, told you I’d blow your brains out. (Little David?) Yes, he was crying, upset. (Asking Daddy?) I’m not sure about that. (Statement) Begging him, Daddy stop, Daddy please don’t … after he threatened the girl.
(That’s all – 9:29)
TROUT TO REBUTTAL – (Believe David is about 42 now?) Yes. (You know him whole time. See anything that said he was capable of this?) No. (As bad as these acts are, is his life worth saving?) He’s my brother.
• • •
DEFENSE CALLS CHARLOTTE HOUSTON, another sister. RUSHING TO QUESTION HER.
HOUSTON – David is my brother. We’re 11 months apart. He older brother. (Asks about growing up. Your relationship, his with parents?) My mom raised us. We were close family. She worked as single parent to raise 6 children on her own. Our dad was there, then divorced when I was 2. Daddy never was really a part of our lives, only when it was convenient. (Financial support from him?) Think it was like $50 every other week for child support. Never really did anything with us. Little parental guidance from father.
(How was David affected?) It hurt him, needed him around. No father figure. (DAvid in school?) He was mainly negative. He was bullied by other kids. Or bullied me, he stood up for me. Just mean kids. (Why?) He was bigger, failed two grades. (How did David react to that, failing grades?) He didn’t care, he just hated it. … it would make him angry, then brush it off and go on. (Did he have low self-esteem?) He’s always had that.
(We’ve talked about David’s relationship with Little DAvid and Jacob. Close?) He did. (Testimony, more buddies than father?) Yes. (Any indications that maybe David was not … uh… doing parental things, more of friendship?) It was.
(Days, hours leading up to incident. David just off truck trip. Talked to him that day?) Yes. Voice-wise, he normal. (Living with you … later on you talked to him directly?) That night? I talked to him a couple of times. Voice – he was screaming one minute, calm another. Not same as earlier in day. (Time he lived with you and Mike?) Yes. Michael Houston’s wife. (He testified yesterday. They lived together and David introduced him to you.) Yes. (How acted later?) He was anxious, he never slept. I’d ask what was wrong. Said he couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t talk to me about it. Had a lot of suicidal thoughts. Couldn’t talk him into seeing someone about it. Had thoughts pretty much every day.
He would talk about going to sleep and not waking up. Said he was just tired and ready to go home. (Home?) … she’s weeping … to be with (PRB – God or mama, can’t be sure.)…. weeping… we couldn’t get him to talk to somebody else. I kept telling him… but his life was in God’s hands. Said if only he could see his boys.
(During time lived with you, Kim and boys were gone?) Yes, not living together.
(Night this happened … when talked with him … and days leading up to this? David wasn’t acting normal?) No, he wasn’t. Had so many suicidal thoughts. I wanted him to talk to someone about taking anti-depressants. Don’t know how much. I never seen him take them. He had pills with him. I told him that his body was looking for something … I said come with me to talk to somebody. He said it wasn’t going to be OK, had left meds at Smiths. (Pain medication?) A lot of different kinds.
(He’s your brother … we’re here about sentence. Do you think, under these circumstances, his life is worth saving?) I do, even if hedone it … horrible… his life is still worth, even in prison, there’s still forgiveness. 9:48
LUTHER – (Believe in death penalty?) I believe it’s in God’s hands. (Did you talk to David while he was with Kim?) I did. (Did you try to get him to get help?) I did. (Doctor?) No, Bro Smith took him to the clinic in Pontotoc. Don’t remember when. One of those little clinics. (Before incident, you talked to David?) Yes, only thing wasn’t normal was that he was driving truck from state to state. I kept asking him when he’d get sleep. He said soon as getting unloaded. (Know if he clocked in to sleep 10:30 at Kosciusko?) I don’t know.
(Talked to him?) David loved those boys, they were his life. He was a good father. (Good father, would he attack … the girl?) OBJECTION – OVERRULED. (Would good father attack boys’ stepsister in front of them?) Not in his right mind. (Shoot their mother?) Not in his right mind.
(Told MHP … about suicidal thoughts?) No. I reviewed a statement. (When gave it to MHP, did you say anything about suicidal thoughts?) Can I say I don’t remember? (Look at statement.) It’s not in statement. (You indicated on day of incident, that David talked normal. But, he alk like he’s mentally handicapped?) No, may not be brightest because of education. (At state hospital, if he talked like he was handicapped … OBJECTION -… I’LL REPHRASE. Have you ever known him to talk like he’s mentally handicapped?) To my knowledge, no. (He wrote to you?) A few times. He can write letters. (Know about log books?) Yes. DONE 9:57
RUSHING – (You’re not psychologist, counselor?) No, I’m not. (So what islike to talk to someone mentally handicapped. Do you know what that is?) Only to a point, to where you can see it. But as far as what he’s referring to, no. (Different degrees about mental handicaps?) Don’t know. Described him as slow. Letters – not scholarly works Rambling, poor grammar, written like David talks.
His letters are wrote in print and across, down line and in corners. Kind of all over the page.
(Said when David on road those days, asked when he was going to sleep? Did he say he did?) No. (Your husband is truck driver and must log in about sleep?) Yes. (Fair to say that truck drivers must sleep certain hours?) Yes. (If he entered a log about sleep at certain time, wouldn’t be out of the ordinary?) Right. (Means he’s asleep?) No. (If didn’t put down sleep, could lose his job?) Yes. (Not unusual to say he’s asleep?) No. Didn’t mean he was asleep. (This was day leading up to why we’re here?) Yes. (When he got off road and got back to your house, did he take a nap?) No,he called me Thursday night and told me he needed to borrow my van to go to Bro Smith’s to pick up his check. He said it would be later tonight. When I talked to him, it was like during the night, we was all in bed. He was still going there. I said let me go. He was still moving, he never stopped. (Thursday through all this happened, to your knowledge, he never stopped moving? Those two days, ever saw him take a nap?) No.
LUTHER – (You have no idea whether he slept or not?) Yes. I kept asking him, said after he dropped his load off. (Know if he slept?) No. (Know he talked normal … OBJECTION – OVERRULED.) (DID HE TALKED NORMAL NIGHT HE KILLED KIM COX……. rephrase, you said he talked normal that afternoon?) I can’t say he talked normal, he was still wide awake. (You said he talked normal that afternoon? Is that correct?) I believe so.
JUDGE ALLS ATTYS TO BENCH. 10:04
Brief recess called.
• • •
FRIDAY MORNING NEWSPAPER REPORT
NEW ALBANY – The now-14-year-old girl David Neal Cox Sr. admits to sexually assaulting three times in 2010 wept before jurors Thursday, confirming the attacks were seen by her mother as she died from his gunshots.
Cox, 41, faces life in prison or the death penalty after his Aug. 15 guilty pleas to eight felony counts – including the murder of his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox, and two counts of kidnapping.
Those charges combine as capital murder. While he pleaded guilty, he asked that a jury decide his fate.
Cox’s sentencing trial began Monday with jury selection in the Union County Courthouse. His crimes occurred during a May 14, 2010, standoff with police at his sister-in-law’s mobile home in Sherman.
Kim Cox was shot twice – in the upper arm, which exited into her breast, and in the abdomen.
Early in the day, Tupelo SWAT hostage negotiator Allen Schaver said Cox repeatedly told him he wanted to leave the mobile home. His wife was alive at the time.
“Who made the decision not to let him leave?” asked defense attorney Kelsey Rushing.
Schaver said it was the sheriff, who in 2010 was Tommy Wilhite.
Assistant District Attorney Kelly Luther was quick to counter, “Who killed Kim Cox?”
Schavers said it was David Cox.
Multiple prosecution witnesses said that via cellphone calls David Cox told them he shot his wife and wanted her to die. She did five hours later in the presence of her husband and two male children they shared.
Today, Cox’s defense team will attempt to convince the jury of 10 women and five men, including three alternates, that their client has a life worth saving and deserves mercy.
Thursday, witnesses including law enforcement officers at the standoff, the Union County coroner, Cox’s elderly neighbor who wept for his dire situation, a New Albany surgeon and Kim Cox’s mother, Melody Kirk.
The most dramatic testimony was brief, from the young girl Cox admitted sexually abusing. The defense objected strenuously to her appearance, saying they believed a video of her interview by a sex-abuse specialist was allowed in a deal with prosecutors to avoid any more trauma for the girl.
Judge John Gregory disagreed, allowing her testimony to put on the record that Cox’s assault on her was in front of her mother as she was dying.
Security was high in the New Albany courtroom where some 30 spectators included numerous Kirk family and friends.