James Rick McCoy, 55, was denied bond on Friday, April 26 by Coffee County Circuit Court Judge Vanessa Jackson during his bond hearing. He will remain in jail until his trial, the date of which is unknown, and his charges do make him eligible for capital punishment.
On Sept. 9, 2018, at 10:30 p.m., McCoy allegedly killed his wife, Lisa, in their Duck River Road home. McCoy’s attorneys, Bobby Carter and Doug Aaron, were unable to prove the charges of first degree-murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of the corpse and domestic violence, occurred without intent and with the absence of a death factor, which are listed at the end of this article.
“This is a death penalty eligible offense,” said Jackson. “Unless the defendant is prepared to come forward with that kind of proof (that McCoy did not commit the crime)…then in my opinion, he is not entitled to bond.”
Carter and Aaron went up against District Attorney General Craig Northcott.
Below is in-depth coverage of McCoy’s bond hearing. Some details of the story have been withheld to protect the involved parties.
The bond hearing
Aaron was the first attorney to speak. His duty was to try and prove the alleged homicide was not eligible for capital punishment and therefore, McCoy was entitled to a bond. After the trial, Aaron explained his defense was based around the state failing to allege a death factor 30 days before the trial. Because the death factor was not filed, there would need to be a death factor in McCoy's indictment, which Aaron believes there is not.
Aaron explained there is one indictment on the table: first-degree murder.
“Review these charges and it is logical that…murder in the first degree is not a capital crime and bond should be allowable,” Aaron said.
Northcott then took to the podium and disputed Aaron's logic.
“This is a multiple count indictment and this is the first hole in Mr. Aaron’s argument,” Northcott said.
“A fact that makes a person eligible for the death penalty is the person knowingly mutilated the body after death,” Northcott continued. “Lisa McCoy was shot 14 times and her legs were cut off.”
He added that if the dismemberment occurred before death, then it would be torture and still eligible for capital punishment.
Aaron pointed out the indictment states McCoy "mistreated" the corpse, not "mutilated," which is not a death factor.
This statement received a visible response from the audience and one female had to be escorted out of the room temporarily.
Tennessee Code Annotated 39-17-312, states abuse of a corpse is committed when a person knowingly "physically mistreats a corpse in a manner offensive to the sensibilities of an ordinary person; disinters a corpse that has been buried or otherwise interred; or disposes of a corpse in a manner known to be in violation of law."
Northcott moved the hearing forward and said he believed they had nothing to talk about unless Aaron could provide proof of McCoy's innocence.
“Unless they have some proof here today that Mr. McCoy is not the one who did this, we have nothing to talk about today,” Northcott said.
Judge Jackson agreed with Northcott and allowed Aaron to provide a defense for McCoy.
First to the stand was Manchester Police Department’s Mitchell West, who was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene. West explained he was informed of the situation before he arrived. He got to the home at 4:35 a.m. on Sept. 10, and found interior and exterior lights were on.
McCoy left the house and approached West peacefully.
There were no weapons on his person.
When questioned about who was in the home and where his wife was, McCoy allegedly told West that her body was in the trunk of his car. West confirmed the body’s location shortly after.
“He was very quiet, very calm. Almost blank,” West said about McCoy’s demeanor.
McCoy was taken into custody when police began processing the scene.
Several weapons, including guns, were found inside the home.
District Attorney Investigator Billy Cook gave a brief testimony as well. Aaron asked him to confirm that he was the investigator who received the call that something happened at the McCoy household.
Cook said Aaron was careful with his words and did not allege that McCoy was involved in a homicide. Cook admitted he informed responding officers that McCoy killed his wife, an assumption he made based on his experience in the field.
The last witness was MPD Investigator Brandon Tomberlin, who processed the crime scene and the autopsy. He confirmed the autopsy report – that Lisa died due to gunshot wounds to the head.
Northcott questioned Tomberlin and asked if he believed the crime was intentional.
“Fourteen gunshot wounds, close range to the head, is intent to kill,” Tomberlin said.
He later added, “As we processed the crime scene, the multiple gunshot wounds, the cleanup, the dismemberment – there is some planning that goes into what occurred.”
Tomberlin explained, in his opinion as a police officer, he believed this was a premeditated killing.
Hearing all of this, Jackson’s opinion did not change and she denied bond for McCoy. He will remain in jail until his trial and his charges will be treated as eligible for capital punishment.
State law defines first-degree murder as one of three types of killings: intent to kill was formed before the killing occurred and the death was intentional; a killing while attempting another felony crime such as terrorism, arson, rape, robbery, etc.; or a killing committed by use of a bomb.
According to state law, capital punishment can only be imposed if one or more of the following aggravating factors are met:
- The homicide was committed heinously, cruelly, or involving torture or mutilating the dead body; for money or involved hiring an assassin; to prevent or interfere with lawful arrest or prosecution; or during a violent felony or act of terrorism
- The victim was under 12 years old or over 70 years old; was a police officer, probation or corrections officer, emergency medical worker, or firefighter on the job; or was a judge, prosecutor, attorney general, or elected official
- The defendant was convicted of one or more prior violent felonies; knowingly created a great risk of death to more people other than the victim; was in lawful custody or trying to escape at the time of the crime; or killed three or more people over a four-year period
If the factors are met and the defendant is found guilty, the punishment in Tennessee is either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.