Courtney Coco’s mom addresses killer in court: ‘I have zero mercy for you’
Sentencing for David Burns postponed until Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. per Louisiana law
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The sentencing for David Anthony Burns, 47 of Boyce, has been delayed 24 hours after Burns chose not to waive a right he was entitled to under Louisiana law that requires a sentence to be handed down a day after the denial of a motion for acquittal.
Burns was convicted by a Rapides Parish jury on Oct. 31, 2022 of the Oct. 2004 death of Courtney Coco, 19 of Alexandria. Prosecutors believed that Burns, who was at a point engaged to Coco’s sister, smothered Coco to death and then dumped her body in an abandoned building in Winnie, Texas. It was alleged during his trial that Burns was also in a relationship with Coco.
Burns made the decision to not waive the sentencing delay in front of a packed Rapides Parish courtroom Monday morning full of family and friends who were there to see him be sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. It was a somewhat unusual move, given the motion, as many defendants generally choose to waive the provision and proceed with sentencing.
That decision came as a result of two motions filed by his public defender, Christopher LaCour - one for judgement of acquittal, the other for a new trial.
“Facts in this case, the state witnesses contradicted each other,” LaCour argued. “They (the State) don’t even know how she died. They theorize that she was smothered.” LaCour argued that the only people who believe Burns is guilty is Coco’s own family.
“Just because the verdict is not what Mr. LaCour would like, doesn’t mean it doesn’t stand,” said Assistant District Attorney Johnny Giordano in response.
Judge Mary Doggett denied both defense motions, saying it was the job of the jury to assess credibility of witnesses and they found them credible with a unanimous guilty verdict.
After Burns made the decision not to waive the sentencing delay, Judge Doggett briefly met with the State and defense to decide how to proceed, given that the courtroom was filled with supporters and Coco’s family had prepared victim impact statements. She decided that the victim impact statements would go on.
“Loved ones have waited 18 years for a resolution and conviction - that’s what we’re going to do today, victim impact statements,” said Judge Doggett.
Coco’s maternal aunt, Michelle Paul, went first.
“Why? Why did you do this to somebody you supposedly loved?” she asked Burns. “You are such a coward.”
Paul told the Court that Burns was a pallbearer at Coco’s funeral, standing by her grave site.
“You took her life and made sure she had no dignity in her death,” she said.
Paul said she didn’t have it in her heart to forgive Burns yet.
Lynn Ray, another one of Coco’s maternal aunts, also spoke. She talked about Burns’ close relationship with the family and how much it hurt to learn Burns was responsible for Coco’s death.
“I think this is what hurts me to the core the most - you deceived our family,” said Ray.
Ray told Burns that he “played God that day.” She also made it a point to call out his defense attorney.
“I highly disagree with your attorney, Mr. LaCour,” she said. “He said you were convicted because of sympathy by the jury because we were crying. How would we not cry?”
Ray’s daughter, Candace Churchman, spoke about the close cousin relationship she had with Coco. She also spoke about her own young daughter.
“She looks like Courtney and acts like Courtney,” she said. “Sometimes it hurts, but it’s also the biggest comfort.”
She explained that every life milestone she has achieved has been partnered with her family’s sadness that Coco won’t be able to achieve the same.
“You broke my family,” said Churchman.
Throughout the victim impact statements, Burns largely kept his head down. He picked it up for the next victim impact statement, that of Ina LaBorde, Courtney’s maternal grandmother, lovingly referred to as MuMu.
“I don’t think your family knows hard it is for us to stand and say these things to you,” said LaBorde directly to Burns. “We loved you.”
LaBorde talked about her struggles as a Christian, struggles her late husband challenged her on.
“I’ve always been an awesome Christian, but the forgiveness thing, I’m having issues with that,” she said.
LaBorde thanked God for allowing her to be there for the trial and the victim impact statements, moments she thought she might not have after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer after Burns was arrested in April 2021.
“I love you,” she told Burns. “You hate the sin, but you love the sinner. MuMu is going to do her best to pray for forgiveness.”
She then had a challenge for Burns.
“I want you and I to both pray really hard that we can see each other in a better place,” she said. “You made a bad decision. Do you still love me, Anthony?”
“I love you,” Burns answered her.
Finally, 18 years after her daughter died, Coco’s mother, Stephanie Belgard, got the chance to speak to Burns. Through tears and sometimes screams, she told him, “I have zero mercy for you.”
Belgard read a letter Coco wrote in middle school, one talking about her hopes and dreams for the future - to be married, to have two girls and a boy. Coco at the time wanted to be a pediatrician or maybe a teacher. Later, she decided she wanted to be a crime scene investigator.
“She wanted to make a difference in this world,” said Belgard. “You denied her that chance - a person she trusted denied her her dreams and goals!”
Belgard said she hates to say Burns’ name or hear it now.
“I have been holding in so much hurt...anger...misery...rage for 18 years,” she told the Court.
She said when Burns was arrested, it was bittersweet. He had been a suspect for awhile.
“I promised Courtney kneeling on her grave that I would find out who put her there,” she cried.
Belgard spoke about a time in his life when Burns became a pastor.
“You hid behind a pulpit as a pastor of a local Baptist church only to make a mockery of God,” she shouted.
She called him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“I hate you and I pray you rot in Angola prison and I hope I never see your face again,” Belgard closed by telling him.
As Judge Doggett announced the new sentencing date of Nov. 29, 2022, she turned to Burns to see if he wished to address the court. He said he did.
Burns stood up and turned around to face Coco’s family - calling them out one by one.
“I sat here for two years and it’s the first time I’ve been able to speak,” he said. “Y’all don’t even believe this. I had nothing to do with this. Lace (Coco’s sister), you know I was home with you that weekend!”
Burns said he had nothing to hide.
“Y’all know I ain’t hiding anything,” he said. “I pray y’all actually find out who did this. [...] I got my life straight. Y’all can’t handle that. That’s it. I’m good.”
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