In the days surrounding the fifth anniversary of his killing spree that left eight people dead on Memorial Day Weekend of 2017, the killer was unanimously denied new representation by the Mississippi State Supreme Court.
The convict was sentenced to four life sentences and four death sentences in the bloody rampage that ended the lives of Deputy William Durr, Brenda May, Barbara Mitchell, Toccara May, Jordan Blackwell, Austin Edwards, Ferral Burage, and Sheila Burage. It was the most deadly non-military mass killing in the history of the state.
He was represented by attorneys with the Mississippi Office of the State Public Defender, Capital Division. The convict claimed in letters to the MSSC that he didn’t want anyone from State Public Defender Andre De Gruy’s office making anymore decisions for him or representing him at all. He was represented at trial by Alison Steiner and Katie Poor.
According to paperwork from the MSSC, the convict provided no basis for his request for new counsel. The convict, who is indigent, was by most accounts given a dogged defense by his state-appointed attorneys. They were up against video confessions uttered by the convict at the scene of his arrest, as well as dozens of eyewitnesses who had seen the killings, seen circumstances surrounding the killings, and heard the convict say that the next time his family called the police on him, he would “kill the police and then kill everyone,” which is what he did.
The night of the killings, the convict also sent a text to Tiffany Blackwell, the mother of 18-year-old Jordan Blackwell, who died shielding his younger cousin from the bullets. It stated that she had messed up his family, and now he was messing up hers. The testimony for the prosecution was strong throughout the trial.
According to those who attended the trial, the Public Defender’s office seemed to have given the convict the best defense possible in the face of vehement disapproval from the community. They won very few friends, but throughout the trial they gave the headstrong convict the right to basically run his own defense.
“No, he shouldn’t have been shooting at a police officer,” she said. “He shouldn’t have been there, he shouldn’t have done that, but who would not become passionate if they thought everything they loved was about to be taken away?”
Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams stepped up to speak and stated, “Cory Godbolt loves his family, that’s what you’ve been told. How did he show that love? He slaughtered his whole family. Is it reasonable to love someone so much you kill 8 people… is that reasonable?”
“Counsel is presumed to be competent . . . . An indigent criminal defendant is not entitled … to counsel of his own choosing,” the MSSC ruled.