Ward trial: Was the fatal gunshot an accident or not?

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Anna Catherine McCoy’s parents will attempt to seal the state’s case today against the man they believe responsible for her shooting death.
Cotton McCoy and Allison McCoy are among the final witnesses as prosecutors complete their meticulous display of testimony and graphic, bloody photographs related to the night she died at Thomas James Ward’s home April 15, 2010.
Ward, 25, insists that her death was an accident.
Monday, a firearms trainer employed by Smith & Wesson, which manufactured the death weapon, insisted its redesigned, triple-safety features made the semi-automatic pistol impossible to discharge accidentally.
Paul Smith of Lee County told the 12-member jury at the Lee County Justice Center that whether an accident occurred that night, it was by the person who fired the gun, not the weapon itself.
Ward initially told police investigators that the gun discharged as McCoy handed it to him across her body.
“It’s highly improbably that you could discharge it in this general manner,” Smith said.
Earlier in the day Texas firearms specialist Richard Earnest said the pistol’s accidental discharge was possible, if enough pressure were applied to the trigger.
He also insisted that his tests showed that this particular weapon did not discharge stipling or bits of gunpowder residue farther than 18-24 inches, which contradicted pathologist Dr. Adele Lewis’ testimony of 40 inches, considerably farther than McCoy’s estimated 25-inch arm length.
The trial began a week ago. District Attorney Trent Kelly said the state will finish its case this morning, and the defense will put on its witnesses and evidence soon after.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Bowen has handled most of the questioning and rebuttals.
Ward is defended by Tupelo attorney Victor Fleitas.
Earnest also disagreed with Lewis, who said she did not see gunpowder stipling or soot on McCoy’s arms.
“If a person is holding the muzzle, they may very well be shot in the arm,” Lewis said. “Second, I’d expect to see heavy soot or even burning of the skin.”
In Earnest’s opinion, the gun was fired no closer than 18 inches from McCoy’s face because of the absence of stipling.
Lewis said McCoy died within seconds of a single gunshot wound to her face.
Ward wept as Lewis spoke about McCoy’s injuries and the courtroom saw graphic photographs of her injuries, including facial closeups on a giant projector screen.