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Home News-Telegram News Jury hands down seven life sentences to Cozzens

Jury hands down seven life sentences to Cozzens

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A 39-year-old man accused on multiple counts of sexually assaulting a young girl was sentenced today by a Hopkins County jury to serve seven life sentences, the maximum possible punishment.

The jury found Gary Jordan Cozzens guilty on four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and three counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

The jury deliberated for about an hour Tuesday evening before notifying the judge at about 6 p.m. they’d reached a verdict.

The punishment was deliberated this morning. Cozzens faced 25 years to life in prison on each of the four sexual assault charges and five to 99 years or life in prison on the indecency charges. But the jurors opted for the maximum sentence in each instance.

Assistant District Attorney Peter Morgan said the seven life sentences are to be served concurrently. A life sentence is considered to be 60 years, and at least half the sentence must be served in prison, meaning Cozzens will not be eligible for parole until 2039.

“The law enforcement officers did a good job,” said the assistant district attorney, who secured his first life sentence conviction in the case. “Lewis Tatum found all the records for us.”

Prosecutors also benefited from medical records, specifically from the Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center and Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, as well as the testimony of a physician, a nurse and others.

“Of course, it always comes down to the victim, and the jury found the girl to be very credible,” Morgan said.

“It was a tough case for the jury to hear,” he said. “There was medical evidence, including photographs. But they listened to everything and were very attentive. And I think when jury heard all the evidence, there was no doubt.”

All charges had been enhanced one letter of the law, which increased the minimum number of years of possible punishment due to prior felony convictions, according to the district attorney’s office.

During his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Peter Morgan told the jury that aside from one count alleged in the original indictments, he believed that “we proved each and every element we alleged in the indictment.” Consequently, that particular charge had been removed from the verdict paragraph, no longer a charge. Morgan argued that the 14-year-old victim, who is mentally challenged, testified that Cozzens sexually penetrated her on three occasions and engaged in indecent sexual contact with her while she was visiting him on or about July 1, 2008, then of one act of sexual penetration and two acts of indecent sexual contact with her on or about July 8.

Morgan also reminded the jury not to be confused by certain wording in the charges.

“‘On or about’ in the charge doesn’t mean the state has to prove it happened on that particular day,” Morgan noted.

He reminded that the victim, age 13 when the alleged offenses occurred last summer, functions at lower grade level than others her age and that her actual maturity and level of sophistication should be considered as well. Morgan argued that those facts only lend to the credibility of the witness.

“She could not fabricate something like this and maintain it to her mom, aunt, a nurse and counselor consistently. She does not have the sophistication to maintain such a lie. It shows her credibility. You can believe every word she says. Gary Jordan Cozzens is guilty on all seven counts,” Morgan justified in his closing statements to the jury before guilt-innocence deliberations. “It was suggested by one defense witness that her mother must have coaxed her real heavy. Did her mother make up the sores on her genital area?” he asked regarding “oozing” herpes ulcers which sexual assault nurse examiner Rose Anglin testified to seeing on the victim when conducting a physical examination of the girl at the child advocacy center that were “so painful she cried; just the touch made her cry.”

"You heard from Rose Anglin, did she make that up? No way. There’s no way that girl made that up,” Morgan stated. “You heard from several witnesses. You heard from [the victim] herself. ... She even drew a picture of the defendant’s penis with red sores from herpes on it. I think there’s only one right choice and that’s guilty – guilty on all seven charges before you.”

Defense attorney Frank Long argued that “You are here to do everything right, make sure all the ‘I’s’ were dotted and cross all the ‘T’s’. I heard zero evidence [the victim] was or wasn’t the spouse of Gary Cozzens. They said she was only 13, was only 14. That doesn’t mean proof,” Long said referring to a phrase the prosecution opted to include in the aggravated sexual assault of a child charges that are not a standard part of that charge but is a requirement in an indecency charge. The phase specified that the allegations involved a minor child 14 years old or less who is not the spouse of the defendant.

Long argued that just because the victim was credited with having a lot of courage to speak in open court about the allegations does not make her credible. He said the victim’s testimony regarding when during the day the alleged offenses occurred were inconsistent, as was her recollection on some key points as to whether or not the alleged contact occurred when the child was clothed or not.

The defense attorney also questioned why law enforcement failed to interview the defendant’s 16-year-old sister who was said to be home sleeping in the same bedroom at least three nights while the victim visited Cozzens.

Long also cited the prosecution’s failure to have physical evidence such as saliva swabs taken from the defendant and victim were tested specifically to determine if both had herpes and which of two strains they had if it tested positive. He said the prosecutor even failed to provide evidence that the defendant even had herpes, much less the same type as the victim.

“In this case you were not presented evidence that would lead you to find Mr. Cozzens guilty of any of these events. How did she get herpes? It’s not my burden of proof. The state has got to prove it’s the same strain. The state said herpes is real important in this case. They had the option to bring evidence showing it’s the same ... you can’t convict until you test it. You can’t be lazy with the law. Too much is at stake here. You’re not going to like it, but you have to base your verdict on the law and evidence. You are going to find Mr. Cozzens not guilty. You are under oath, it is your responsibility,” Long said in his final statements to the jury Tuesday evening.

“Looking at the charge, you have to decide we proved each element beyond a reasonable doubt. Nothing says the state has to prove every fact presented within a reasonable doubt. We just have to prove the offense,” Morgan countered, calling the defense’s argument that the other teen not being interviewed simply a “distraction to this case.” He further argued that the victim “named one person, alleged one person assaulted her.”

The victim’s outcry and accounting of how she was sexually assaulted by Cozzens, a relative, four times and indecent sexual contact with Cozzens on three occasions remained consistent in her accounting to not only family, but also her counselor, medical providers and testimony, according to Morgan.

 

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