Cotton Case: Jury Deliberating Guilty Or Not Guilty In Shooting Of Unarmed Bellaire Resident
The aggravated assault trial of Bellaire Police Sgt. Jeffrey Cotton is in the hands of the jury following closing arguments in the Harris County Criminal Courts building earlier today.
Cotton is charged with the shooting Robbie Tolan on the front lawn of his Bellaire home on New Year’s Eve 2008 after Bellaire Police Officer John Edwards mistakenly thought Tolan was driving a stolen vehicle.
The trial has been going on for almost a week. It is unknown how long it will take the jury to reach a verdict.
The Defense Argument
Defense attorney Paul Aman told the jury the evidence shows Cotton is not guilty and was simply following his training when he thought he was in fear for his life.
“(Police) do what they are trained to do.” Aman told jurors.
Aman also said that Marian Tolan testified that she thought the police were there to harass them; however, before the day of the shooting, Cotton had never met the Tolans or been to their residence. He also said Cotton had never been involved in a shooting of any kind before.
After Cotton shot Robbie Tolan, he went up to him with his gun drawn and asked him, “what were you reaching for?” Both Robbie Tolan and Marian Tolan testified they heard Cotton pose the question, Aman said.
The defense attorney also reminded jurors of their role in the trial.
“Each one of you is responsible for this verdict,” Aman said. “Any one of you can stop the state from convicting him.”
Aman said that if Robbie Tolan would have just stayed on the ground and followed police orders, Cotton would have cuffed him and searched him.
“His only option was to yell ‘stop’ like he did and fire,” he said. “At the end of the day he is not guilty.”
The State Argument
“Today you 12 people are the government. Today you 12 people are affecting our lives,” Assistant District Attorney Clint Greenwood said to the jury.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution has tried to prove Cotton acted recklessly when he shot Robbie Tolan. Cotton said in his testimony on Friday that he didn’t shoot him recklessly, he intended to shoot him.
Greenwood said that if they could prove Cotton shot Tolan intentionally and knowingly, they could prove he was reckless.
Greenwood said that with four clicks of a button, Edwards could have found out he had entered the wrong license plate number. The license plate number Edwards entered was the number for a black Nissan Ultima sedan, not a sport-utility vehicle like Tolan was driving.
Greenwood believes both Edwards and Cotton were trying to be the “hero” that night. Administration had previously “come down on Cotton” to bring down the crime in Bellaire, so everyone was concerned with “catching the crooks.”
On the night of the shooting, Anthony Cooper, who was in the SUV with Robbie Tolan, had a cell phone in his hand, which was later taken from him by Marian Tolan.
In his testimony, Edwards said he was afraid Cooper’s cell phone was a weapon. Greenwood said Cooper had never testified to that before and was prompted in his testimony by an expert witness hired by the city.
Greenwood said the City of Bellaire paid expert witness J.W. Conley $20,000 to say that Cotton and Edwards did everything right that night because otherwise “Bellaire is sunk.”
“At the end of the day an unarmed kid is shot,” Greenwood said. “Jeff Cotton is guilty of aggravated assault. Do the right thing.”