Twice-convicted cop killer seeks new trial

Luzenski Cottrell.

Luzenski Cottrell, a twice-convicted death row inmate, is asking for post-conviction relief.

Cottrell fatally shot Myrtle Beach police officer Joe McGarry in 2002.

He was sentenced to death in April 2005.

Three years later, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the jury was not allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Cottrell was found guilty again in a retrial in 2014, and was again sentenced to death.

According to documents filed October 12, 2018, Cottrell is seeking post-conviction relief.

"Mr. Cottrell's right to effective assistance of counsel... was violated when his trial attorneys failed to exercise peremptory strikes to remove two jurors whose views, expressed during voir dire, prevented or substantially impaired their ability to consider constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence," the documents state.

During voir dire, two jurors stated "unequivocally that they would not regard evidence of a defendant's 'background characteristics' as 'relevant' in selecting an appropriate penalty for murder... Defense counsel rightly recognized these statements as conclusive indicators that each juror lacked the capacity to perceive and give effect to mitigating evidence mandated by the Eighth Amendment, and objected to the jurors' qualification on the ground that each was 'mitigation impaired...' However, once the trial court overruled their objections... trial counsel deficiently failed to exercise peremptory strikes necessary to ensure the unqualified jurors would not be seated on the jury."

"As a result, both unqualified jurors were seated, and both participated in the guilt-or-innocence and penalty determinations," the document continues. "Because of their self-professed unwillingness to consider a broad range of constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence, it is at least reasonably probable that one or both jurors adversely affected the outcome of the penalty phase deliberations, and that, absent their participation, the result of those deliberations would have been different."

The filing seeks a new trial-- or at the very least, a new sentencing hearing.

Cottrell is already serving a life sentence in an unrelated murder case, but is also serving three 10-year sentences for grand larceny, resisting arrest and assault with intent to kill related to the McGarry case.

Authorities say McGarry confronted Cottrell outside a Dunkin' Donuts, and the officer pinned Cottrell against a car as he questioned him. The two struggled and investigators say Cottrell shot the officer in the face.

Cottrell admitted to the killing.

For McGarry's parents, justice for their son means the ultimate price. "He (Cottrell) needs to the ultimate punishment," said Anita McGarry, Joe's mother. "He's a murderer. He's a gangster. You have to pay the price for what you do."

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