Prosecutors say defense in capital murder case hasn’t shared information

Published 10:28 pm Friday, January 17, 2020

With a capital murder trial set to begin Feb. 10 and a death penalty on the line, the state’s prosecutors are concerned at the lack of reciprocal discovery the defense has provided to them.

“I sound like a broken record again,” Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams told Lincoln County Circuit Judge David Strong Thursday during a status hearing in the Pike County Courtroom.

It’s the same courthouse where the capital murder trial for Willie Cory Godbolt is set to be heard by a DeSoto County jury. Godbolt is accused of shooting to death eight people in a two-day killing spree in May 2017.

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Jury selection is set to begin Feb. 10 in Hernando and the trial is expected to begin later that week in Magnolia.

“We are now less than 30 days out to trial and we have received no notice of any witnesses the defense intends to or potentially could call. We have received not a single document that it intends to introduce. We have received zero reciprocal discovery whatsoever. We have provided discovery. We have supplemented discovery,” he said, stopping when Strong interrupted to address Defense Attorney Allison Steiner with the capital defense counsel division of the state public defender’s office.

Steiner said Dr. Matthew Mendel, a licensed psychologist in North Carolina and Texas, performed a two-day psychological evaluation on Godbolt in December.

“We are awaiting a report from him that he has promised we are going to have on Monday, at which time, it will be provided,” she said.

She said the defense team’s investigators are attempting to make contact with witnesses and agreed to provide a list of witnesses as well as any documents that might be relevant on Monday.

“This is the first we’ve heard about Dr. Matthew Mendal but we’ll take them on their word that they are going to provide everything we need,” Adams said.

Steiner said some delays were caused by a lack of assistance in the latter part of 2019. Defense Attorney Katherine Poor was on maternity leave and the third person on her team left the Lincoln County Public Defender’s office and was replaced by attorney M.A. Bass of Hazlehurst.

“I was basically on solo watch from September until December. It was something I couldn’t do and keep up with the rest of my caseload,” she said. “We had moved for a continuance so that there might be more time to do this and the court has declined.”

No memorials

Steiner requested that audience members be reminded they cannot wear anything during the trial that would potentially sway the jury.

“I understand that members of the family — of the May, Blackwell and Edwards family — have asked to have T-shirts of some kind printed for their own memorial,” she said, which caused a murmur from the 20 or so individuals in the audience that was loud enough to prompt Strong to call for order.

“We won’t have any T-shirts, any memorials, (William) Durr’s badge number displayed. We won’t have any of that, Miss Steiner. Period,” he said. “I can’t think of a quicker way to get a case reversed than that.”

“Your honor, just for the record this is news to us,” Adams said.

“I think everybody out here understands that if they attend this trial they’re not going to wear anything that would try to sway or inflame the jury,” Strong said. “We will know what the audience has on before the jury comes out.”

The next status hearing is set for Jan. 28 at 9 a.m. in Lincoln County.