Opening Arguments Wrap Up in Burns’ Murder Trial

Opening arguments have wrapped up in a Manchester man’s murder trial.

66-year old Jerry Burns is accused of fatally stabbing a Cedar Rapids teenager forty years ago.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks gave the prosecution’s opening arguments.

Maybanks told the jury that they will need to decide if Burns “willfully, deliberately and with pre-meditation” killed 18-year old Michelle Martinko on December 19, 1979. He told the jury that they would hear from people who knew her and interacted with her the night of the murder. Martinko was found dead early the next morning with multiple stab wounds curled forward into the passenger’s seat of her family’s car in the parking lot of Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

The prosecution told the jury on Wednesday morning that in 1979, DNA evidence was not a consideration that entered the minds of suspects or law enforcement, but the Cedar Rapids Police Department took steps to preserve blood scrapings from the gearshift and Martinko’s dress for later analysis if it became available. Investigators say DNA from a straw used by Burns at the Manchester Pizza Ranch in October 2018 connected him to the case.

Maybanks told the jury it’s a complicated case.

Burns was arrested a little over a year ago on the 39th anniversary of Martinko’s death. He has pleaded not guilty to First Degree Murder.

Burns’ attorney, Leon Spies, says the evidence will show that in 1979, Burns was a married man with two young children living in Manchester. Spies told the jury it will be important for them to understand DNA statistics, adding that the defense plans to bring in a forensic scientist to discuss those numbers and the integrity of the investigation.

The trial, which is being held in Scott County due to pre-trial publicity, will continue Thursday morning.


audio courtesy of Radio Iowa/KCRG