Today were the closing arguments for the prosecution and the defense in the 1979 murder case of Michelle Marie Martinko.
The order was as follows: First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks gave his closing arguments. The defense attorney Leon Spies, gave his for his client Jerry Burns. After that, the state got the change to rebut Spies’ arguments.
The Judge gave the jury the options to consider the lesser charges for first-degree murder: second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.
After a few hours of deliberation, the jury returned the verdict of guilty in the first-degree. Burns will be held without bond. There is no information yet about the date of sentencing.
The prosecution’s main point was that there is no alternative explanation for Burns’ DNA on Martinko’s dress and on the gear shift. The defense claimed cross-contamination. They brought up that the car’s steering wheel did not have any DNA on it. Not even from Michelle’s father who owned the car. The easy explanation would be that is was wiped clean. Spies also brought up the DNA from another male at the crime scene. However, I have not found (yet) where that was found so to what exactly Spies is referring in his closing arguments.
Michelle Marie Martinko was found dead on Dec 20, 1979. She was repeatedly stabbed in her face and chest. Police found her body in the family Buick in the parking lot of the Westdale Mall, Iowa. Police said there was no sign of a sexual assault, but she had wounds that indicated she fought with her attacker.
In Oct 2006, police announced they had developed the suspect’s DNA. However, no match was found in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). In May 2017, Cedar Rapids Police Department released a suspect composite sketch based on that DNA. On Dec 19, 2018, police announced an arrest. Jerry Lynn Burns (64) was arrested 12/19/2018 and faces first-degree murder charges. A covert DNA sample was matched to blood found at the crime scene. Police questioned Burns at work in Manchester, Iowa where he denied killing Martinko. He could not offer an alternative explanation for why his DNA was found at the crime scene. Burns again denied killing Martinko when he appeared by video for his arraignment. He requested court-appointed counsel. The judge ordered a $5 million cash-only bond.
The preliminary hearing was on Dec 28, 2018. Trial was set for Oct 14, 2019 in Linn County District Court. The trial was moved out of Linn County after the prosecution decided not to resist change of venue. Burns will now face trial by jury in the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport. The jury selection started Feb 10, 2020. On Feb 24, 2020 the jury found Burns guilty in the first degree. We are now awaiting sentencing. Burns faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.