COURTNEY COCO CASE: Attorney for suspect questions eyewitness’ timeline, identification of David Anthony Burns

Judge Mary Doggett set to make bond reduction decision on April 11 at the Rapides Parish Courthouse
The public defender assigned to represent David Anthony Burns, 46, of Boyce, is asking Rapides Parish Judge Mary Doggett to reconsider reducing his bond.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 11:05 AM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The public defender assigned to represent David Anthony Burns, 46, of Boyce, is asking Rapides Parish Judge Mary Doggett to reconsider reducing his $500,000 bond.

Attorney Christopher LaCour believes an affidavit from the State’s eyewitness “directly contradicts,” and it’s the “only evidence they have against the defendant.”

Last week, LaCour filed a memorandum in response to the State’s opposition to a motion that he previously filed looking to suppress a suspect lineup used by police with an eyewitness who lives in Texas. That eyewitness identified Burns as the person he saw driving Courtney Coco’s car near the abandoned building in Winnie, TX, where her body was found. The memorandum was filed alongside the motion to re-urge the bond reduction and a copy of an affidavit signed by the eyewitness on Oct. 8, 2004.

Burns was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder for the 2004 death of Coco, who was 19-years-old at the time she was killed. Burns was arrested on April 13, 2021 by Det. Tanner Dryden, the Alexandria Police Department detective who was working on the cold case. The Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office believes Burns killed Coco during an attempted simple robbery, but it was not his intent to kill her.

The eyewitness has been subpoenaed for an April 11 hearing.

In the affidavit to the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, the eyewitness writes that on Sept. 27, 2004, he was on his way to his home at about 10:15 p.m. when, while “coming over the overpass at Interstate 10,” he “noticed a car backing out of this abandoned house.” The eyewitness said he “really paid attention to the car because it did not appear that they were going to stop and I thought they might back out in front of me.”

According to investigators, Coco’s body was found Oct. 4, 2004 in the abandoned building. In LaCour’s memorandum, he argues that the eyewitness “observed someone leaving the building where the victim’s body was found a full week earlier than deduced by Det. Dryden, at which time the victim was still alive.”

LaCour also contends that the eyewitness never saw Burns’ face when he identified him as a suspect. In the memorandum, LaCour doubled down on his argument.

The eyewitness noticed the car was “a dark color and it had Louisiana plates.” He also recalled part of the plate including the letters “JW” - which stood out to him, because they are his initials. He said that it appeared to be an “older model car.” The eyewitness came forward, he said, when he said the description of the vehicle on the news on Oct. 7, 2004. Within that affidavit, the eyewitness testified, “I could not see inside the vehicle. I did look in the mirror after I had passed and the vehicle was traveling south on FM 1406 over the bridge and heading back toward the Winnie area.”

In his argument, LaCour writes the eyewitness “was sure he DID NOT SEE the facial features of the person he claims he saw leaving the building where the victim’s body was found.” He continues, “regardless of how many different lineups the witness is shown, any person he picks would be suggestive and not based on something the witness observed, for example, what the person looked like.”

LaCour also writes that witness was not sure of the race of the individual.

LaCour writes that, without the eyewitness, the State “has no other evidence to support their case.” He believes that the witness either “committed aggravated perjury when he signed that affidavit with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, or he will perjure himself when he is subpoenaed to testify at the trial in this matter.”

He wraps up his argument by calling the State’s case a “witch hunt in an attempt to appease a grieving family who knows that the original investigation into this matter was botched by the Alexandria Police Department.”

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland. The matter will be heard before Judge Mary Doggett.

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