BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — A Mississippi man convicted this year in the 2017 killings of eight people appeared in court this week and asked for a new trial. A judge denied the request, saying he will issue a written ruling later.
Willie Cory Godbolt, now 38, was convicted in February of four counts of murder and four counts of capital murder. He received a sentence of life in prison for each murder conviction and a death sentence for each capital murder conviction. Mississippi defines capital murder as a killing committed along with another felony.
On Wednesday, Lincoln County Circuit Judge David Strong heard arguments from Godbolt, his attorneys and prosecutors about whether to grant a new trial, the Daily Leader reported.
Investigators said that on May 27, 2017, Godbolt went to his in-laws’ home and argued with his estranged wife about their children. A Lincoln County deputy sheriff, Godbolt’s mother-in-law and two other people were killed there. In the early hours of the next day, two young people were killed in a second house and a married couple was killed in a third house.
Just before he was sentenced on Feb. 27, Godbolt spoke in court and blamed the devil for his actions on the night he killed eight people in the south Mississippi towns of Brookhaven and Bogue Chitto.
Godbolt is on death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, and he was taken from there to Brookhaven for the Wednesday hearing.
One of Godbolt’s attorneys, Alison Steiner, argued Wednesday that the judge “erroneously” allowed the trial’s original schedule to proceed, even though the defense team had several changes that made it difficult to provide an adequate defense. Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams argued there was time to prepare, and the judge agreed.
Steiner also argued that Godbolt should not have had a single trial that combined all the charges. Strong responded that the evidence overlapped and that all the crimes were committed in one sequence of assaults punctuated only by armed robbery and Godbolt riding around talking.
“The physical evidence, circumstantial evidence and direct evidence was so overwhelming that severance was not appropriate,” Strong said.
Godbolt himself spoke for 15 minutes Wednesday, arguing that jurors should not have been allowed to see video of an interview that a reporter did with him as he was being arrested. He also argued that his wife should not have been allowed to testify against him during his trial, when their divorce was not yet complete.
Strong said that based on oral arguments, he would deny the request for a new trial. He said he would review documents before issuing a written ruling.