Tuesday, March 18, 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court will hear argument in Cotton v. State. In Cotton, the Court of Appeals affirmed the murder conviction of Joe Cotton. The issue on cert. deals with sufficiency of the evidence. Fannie Lee Burks was found shot dead in her apartment in April 1995. The case went unsolved for two decades. In 2008, fingernail scrapings that had been taken from Ms. Burks during the autopsy were submitted for DNA testing and then compared with DNA profiles in a national database. The DNA was found to match that of Joe Cotton who was then incarcerated in the MDOC. At trial, Cotton testified that Ms. Burk waited on him at the cafe where she worked the day before she was found dead. The defense argued that the tiny amount of DNA under her fingernails could have come from casual contact with Joe Cotton at the cafe. The cert. petition also challenges the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that Cotton saw Ms. Burk’s jewelry when she waited on him and that this was the motive for the killing. One of Ms. Burks’ coworkers testified that Ms. Burks did not put her jewelry on until she was leaving work that day. The defense argues that the circumstantial evidence may have raised a suspicion but was not sufficient to support a guilty verdict.
The argument is at 10:30 and can be viewed here.