Cottrell found guilty of murder of Myrtle Beach Police officer - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Cottrell found guilty of murder of Myrtle Beach Police officer

Luzenski Cottrell entering the court room on the first day of the trial. | Source: Lisa Gresci Luzenski Cottrell entering the court room on the first day of the trial. | Source: Lisa Gresci
Officer Joe McGarry. | Source: Horry County Sheriff's Office on Facebook. Officer Joe McGarry. | Source: Horry County Sheriff's Office on Facebook.
Sergeant Mike Guthinger, who was present during the incident, testifies on what happened in 2002. | Source: Lisa Gresci Sergeant Mike Guthinger, who was present during the incident, testifies on what happened in 2002. | Source: Lisa Gresci

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Luzenski Cottrell was found guilty Wednesday of the murder of Myrtle Beach Police Officer Joe McGarry, and could now face the death penalty.

For more background on this trial, read our stories about the first two days:

Day 1: Retrial begins for man accused of Myrtle Beach police officer fatal shooting

Day 2: Defense calls witnesses in police officer murder trial

After several hours of deliberation, a jury returned the guilty verdict Wednesday afternoon, after a three-day retrial for the 2002 murder.

After two days of testimony from witnesses, the defense and prosecution gave their closing arguments. Solicitor Jimmy Richardson drew an objection by the defense for comparing Officer McGarry's police duty to the jury's duty to seek justice.

The state resumed their closing arguments saying that Cottrell had malice aforethought because he walks away from Officer McGarry and his own I.D. card, and then "empties eight rounds across his Honda. Well, nine rounds, because one round is in Officer McGarry's face," stated prosecutor Scott Hixson.

Hixson also argued that Cottrell should have announced he had a handgun, and that the gun was fully loaded, which shows malicious intent. Cottrell unloaded one full magazine at Officer McGarry, killing him, Hixson said, and two eyewitnesses confirmed that Cottrell fired the first shot at Officer McGarry's face.

After a short break, Cottrell's defense attorney got up and presented his closing arguments.

"The state presented you with an argument. I'm going to walk you through the facts," his attorney said. "The science says Guthinger did not shoot Luzenski Cottrell. There's only one other person who could have fired that shot, Officer McGarry."

The defense then walked the jury through the science that they say proved Officer McGarry fired at Cottrell, not Sergeant Mike Guthinger, as the prosecution asserted. The attorney went on say that Officer McGarry targeted Cottrell, unlawfully attempted to arrest him, and unlawfully shot him.

The jury went in to deliberation on Wednesday afternoon. During deliberations, they requested to hear McGarry's call-in of Cottrell's information, and SLED's testimony again.

At about 4:20 p.m., the jury returned a verdict: Cottrell was found guilty of murder.

After the verdict, Joe McGarry's mother, Anita McGarry spoke with WMBF News. 

She explained it's been terrible to go through the trial once more and though she's feeling a sense of relief with this conviction, she wants the state to take it a step further. 

"He needs the ultimate. He needs the ultimate punishment. He's a murderer. He's a gangster. You've got to pay the price for what you do," McGarry said.

There is a 24-hour "cooling off" period before Cottrell is sentenced, but the state is pushing for the death penalty.

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson explains the state will have to prove at least one aggravated circumstance beyond reasonable doubt and the jury will ultimately be making the life or death decision. 

"We'll have to prove that, they'll have to find that beyond reasonable doubt just like they did the guilt. In order to do that, they get to decide whether it's life or death at that point," Richardson explained. 

The penalty stages will begin Friday morning at 9 a.m.

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