- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi man’s confession to killing his wife and his attempts to make it look like a robbery outweigh any arguments by his attorneys that he was ill-advised to plead guilty, a prosecutor told the state Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Mike Cochran was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder in the 2010 death of his wife. Donna Cochran’s body was found inside the family-owned D&B; Tack Shop in the Free Trade community on Aug. 11, 2010. She had been shot with a small caliber gun, prosecutors said.

According to court documents, Cochran confessed two months later, telling investigators he and his wife argued over money and he shot her. Cochran entered a guilty plea in 2011.

Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon denied Cochran’s post-conviction petition in 2013, and he is now asking the three-judge panel of the Appeals Court for a new trial.

In a post-conviction petition, an inmate argues he has found new evidence - or a possible constitutional issue - that could persuade a court to order a new trial.

Cochran argues his attorney failed to seek a mental examination before Cochran pleaded guilty. He also said his attorney made no effort to object to prosecutors’ use of the confession.

His new attorney, Cody Gibson, said the judge noted at the sentencing that it was usual for a defendant to accept the maximum sentence in such a case.

Mr. Cochran was doubly wronged by his attorney and the trial judge. The trial judge abused his discretion by allowing Mr. Cochran to plead guilty,” Gibson said.

Gibson said the judge had the option of refusing to accept the plea and setting a trial date.

“Would a reasonable person take the maximum sentence? He had nothing to lose by going to trial,” Gibson said.

Gibson said Cochran’s lawyer did none of the usual things expected a murder case - including no motions to bar the confession or to seek a mental competency hearing after Cochran told him of having suicidal thoughts.

“He knew something wasn’t right here and didn’t do anything,” Gibson said.

Special Assistant Attorney General Billy Gore told the court Cochran wanted a “do over” but had no factual argument to make.

“There is a confession that details the killing. He shot his wife not once but twice. He left the gun and went back to retrieve it and spread some money around … tried to make it look like a robbery. For two months he laid low and misled authorities.

“His efforts to disguise the crime showed rational thinking,” Gore said.

Gore said the judge had an affidavit from Cochran’s attorney that spoke to conversations about pleading guilty and going to trial that belie Cochran’s argument that the lawyer did a poor job.

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