Legal teams gave their opening statements and witnesses were called on day one of the trial of Jerry Burns, a Manchester man charged in a 40-year-old murder.
Burns was arrested in 2018 for the murder of Michelle Martinko, after Cedar Rapids police created a DNA profile from blood found on Martinko’s dress. The Kennedy High School senior was killed on December 19, 1979, her body found in a family car in the Westdale Mall parking lot. Prosecutor Nick Maybanks said investigators can place Burns at the scene with odds of one in 100 billion from blood on her dress. Prosecutors also said DNA found on Martinko’s car’s gear shift places Burns at the scene with odds of roughly one in eleven hundred. The trial was moved to Scott County due to pre-trial publicity.
Lawyers on both sides talked about the DNA evidence, the focal point of the trial. Burns’ attorney tried to get that DNA evidence thrown out before the trial, saying it was collected without a warrant. To display how the DNA case could easily be tainted, the defense talked jurors through their morning, reminding them of all the things they touched. Both sides announced plans to call forensic specialists to the stand at some point. The defense says their specialist will show that the DNA trail does not inevitably lead to Burns.
Witnesses recalled Martinko’s personality, and what she was like in her final days. Several witnesses confirmed what Martinko was wearing that night, one remembered seeing her car after the mall closed; saying it looked out of place. Burns’ attorney pressed Charles Seidel, a boyfriend of Martinko’s, about a 1981 interview. In that interview, Seidel told investigators that Martinko told him someone may have been following her after work the week before her death. The State says Martinko was killed by a complete stranger, which contributed to the 40-year delay in this case.