Michael McCormack

Defense attorney Mike Richardson said Saturday the case against Michael Lee McCormick for the 1985 slaying of Donna Jean "Jeannie" Nichols is so weak that it should be dismissed.

However, after the state finished its proof on Saturday morning, Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood let the case proceed to the jury without comment.

Attorney Richardson said the state has "absolutely no physical evidence" against McCormick, who was on death row for 16 years before winning a new trial.

He noted that at McCormick's first trial an FBI agent said a hair found in Ms. Nichols' car matched that of McCormick's, but new DNA testing proved it was not.

He said a tape obtained by police undercover officer Eddie Cooper included McCormick saying he killed Ms. Nichols, but the attorney said his statement about the case was "replete with false and wrong information."

The veteran undercover officer was the state's final witness in the trial that has lasted all week and resumes at 9 a.m. on Monday.

He told of arranging to meet McCormick at a Georgia probation office and then getting him involved in fake car burglaries and a fake contract killing in Knoxville.

He said after McCormick had denied killing Ms. Nichols numerous times that while they were sitting on a sofa at the Days Inn in East Ridge where they were living that McCormick "out of the blue turned to me and said he'd killed her."

The officer said he did not have his tape recorder on at the time, but he quickly reached and got it on. He said, "I started scrambling to get it on."

He said the initial unrecorded statement by McCormick was, "I'll tell you just like it was - I killed the g-- d--- b----."

McCormick earlier said Ms. Nichols had been killed for $1,000. On this occasion he said it "wasn't for no thousand." He said it was for $3,500."

He said the murder was "all because of a little burglary." According to testimony, McCormick was involved in a burglary at Dalton Junior College with Ms. Nichols' brother and she found out about it and was upset.

McCormick said at the time both he and Ms. Nichols "had been hitting the clubs." He said that night, Feb. 13, 1985, they both were at the Brainerd Beach Club, and he said he left with her.

He said, "She wanted to leave and I left with her."

Of the murder, he said, "She held her hand up when she saw me come up."

He said after the slaying he "put her in the parking lot." He said he afterwards "got in my van and left."

In the same conversation, Cooper asked, "How did it go down, son?"

McCormick said, "She held out on some drugs."

McCormick told Cooper he had been feeling bad about not "come straight with him" on the Nichols case. He said he had not been sleeping and was drinking more after Cooper said they needed to be truthful with one another if they were going to be crime partners.

McCormick said, "I'm sorry. It won't happen again. I apologize."

Cooper had told him, "If it bothers you (Nichols case), get it off your chest."

McCormick said, "I feel better about it already. When you tell your daddy a lie, that's what I felt like."

Cooper said he paid for beer for McCormick, but he said he never tried to get him drunk and never saw him drunk.

Cooper said he turned the tape over to lead detective Charles Dudley, and McCormick was charged with murder the next day.

Attorney Richardson said McCormick was a chronic liar, making up stories about getting wounded in Vietnam when he did not serve there.

He said McCormick "had a shrine above the commode at the motel" with supposed Vietnam medals.

He said there was no proof that the case involved a contract killing or that drugs were involved.

Prosecutor Mike Taylor said much of the information given by McCormick on the tapes jived with proof in the case, including his knowledge she was trying to cash a check that night.

He said he knew that three shots were fired and that she was shot in the hand and head.

The defense called Jane McDonald Little, who said she was at the Brainerd Beach Club on the night Ms. Nichols died.

She said she knew the Nichols family, though she had not seen Jeannie Nichols for many years at the time. She said she saw her walk in the club that night and go across the dance floor to the restroom.

She said she was thinking she was surprised she was old enough to be in the club since she had last seen her as a girl.

She said there were two men walking with her, including one with dark hair who was nicely dressed. The defense said that is in line with a composite drawing of another suspect.

The testimony was read to the jury of Bertha McCormick, mother of the defendant.

She said McCormick, whom she adopted when he was six days old, came home around 11:15 that night. She said he wanted to go back out, but he was drunk and she would not let him.

She said she sat up until 3 a.m. to make sure he did not leave.

She said, "Mike wouldn't hurt a flea."

Source : https://www.chattanoogan.com/2007/12/1/117938/Defense-Says-Case-Against-Michael.aspx

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