DALLAS (CBS11) – The prosecution has rested in the Antonio Cochran murder trial. Cochran is facing a possible life sentence without parole in the death of 18-year-old Zoe Hastings.
Hastings disappeared in October of 2015 while stopping to return a Redbox movie while on her way to church.
Dallas County’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Barnard told jurors that he found no evidence of trauma that would suggest sexual assault during Hastings’ autopsy– testimony that came as something of a surprise, considering prior testimony about the presence of a single sperm cell obtained during a rape kit exam. Dr. Barnard also testified that Hastings was stabbed six times in the neck.
After three days of testimony, it was the medical examiner’s words that appeared to be the most difficult for Hastings’ relatives, who up until that point had not shown any visible reaction to the testimony. There was no disruption; but, one woman left the courtroom in tears.
For most of the day, testimony focused on information culled from cell phones — both the defendant’s and the victim’s.
Detective Eric Weast told jurors that he used special software to extract all of the data from Cochran’s cell phone — including text messages, incoming and outgoing phone calls and data.
Some of the text messages retrieved from the phone and read for the jury show that Cochran had been drinking in the hours prior to Hastings’ disappearance, and that he had become increasingly despondent, at one point texting “I am really hurting…” and “My Mom died last night in my face” and “My mind is really f****d up now.” And then on Monday night, the day Hastings’ body was discovered, the detective testified that Cochran sent this message to a female acquaintance “…I was for you. And my life is over. You will find out soon enough.”
The detective also testified that Cochran began searching news sites for information on the murder. Det. Weast also told jurors that by mapping the towers that Cochran’s cell phone connected to, they were able to determine that he had been in the area of the Walgreen’s where Hastings disappeared.
The owner of a company that verified those geo-mapping results took the stand and took the cell phone findings even further. Sy Ray with ZetX told jurors that the company used special software to search 45 days of cell phone tower activity and determined that the only time that Cochran’s cell phone had been in the area of the Walgreens was on the date and around the time that Hastings disappeared.
Courtney Ferreira, another DNA expert from the Southwest Institute of Forensic Science, also testified about Cochran’s DNA recovered from the handle of the murder weapon… saying the odds of finding that same DNA pattern would be 1 in 15.7 quadrillion, or in other words, the entire population of the world, more than two million times over.
During opening arguments defense attorney Paul Johnson seemed to acknowledge the presence of Cochran’s DNA on the murder weapon, but promised jurors that he would have an explanation for how it got there. He will get his chance when the defense begins to present its case to jurors Wednesday morning.