A newly-appointed jury of five men and 10 women heard opening statements Wednesday from both the prosecution and defense in the capital sentencing trial of David Cox, Sr., of Pontotoc, followed shortly by testimony from two witnesses.
At issue in the trial is whether or not Cox, 41, should receive the death penalty or serve life in prison for the May 14, 2010 kidnapping and shooting death of his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox.
Cox, pleaded guilty in August to capital murder, as well as to two counts of kidnapping, burglary, firing into a dwelling and three counts of sexual assault during a hostage situation involving two minor children.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore, who is heading up the prosecution, told the jury that the case is too important for the state to make the decision as to Cox’s fate.
“The defense has already said that the state didn’t have to seek death, that it was our elective,” Creekmore said. “But there are cases like this that are so serious that it’s not really up to us. It’s up to the jury to make the decision.”
Creekmore said the state would argue for the death penalty based on three factors: that Cox committed murder during the commission of kidnapping and three incidents of sexual battery, that he created great risk for the victims, as well as neighbors, and that he knowingly entered the home with a 40-caliber pistol, shot his wife and allowed her to die.
T.R. Trout, speaking for the defense, made the argument the Cox’s behavior was linked to a long history of substance abuse, causing him mental and physical damage.
“You will hear testimony from a psychiatrist who will tell you that Cox suffers from organic brain disease, as the result of using inhalants beginning at the age of 15,” Trout told the jury. “He used these inhalants from 15 to 25 and then moved to methamphetamine. These substances caused permanent damage to his brain, such as loss of impulse control.”
Both Creekmore and Trout urged the jury to listen to all of the witnesses and carefully consider all evidence presented before making a decision as to Cox’s sentence.
Potential witnesses in the case included law enforcement officials, members of Kim Cox’s family, as well as a psychiatrist and siblings of David Cox.
The hearing resumed at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.