Clovis’ Wiggins found not guilty in murder trial

By Robin Fornoff: FNM content editor

Minutes after a jury found his client Lonzell Wiggins of Clovis not guilty of murder, defense attorney Jesse Cosby was asked if there might be another suspect.

“Close your eyes and pick someone at random,” said Cosby, flanked by a dozen Curry County Sheriff’s deputies standing by for security Friday in District Judge Stephen Quinn’s courtroom.

A disappointed Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover shook his head as he packed months-worth of investigative files and paperwork into his briefcase.

“There’s no doubt in our minds that Lonzell Wiggins killed Gary Gill,” said Stover. “But sometimes the jury can say there was not enough evidence.”

The jury’s verdict marked the end of a five-day trial featuring a parade of witnesses and what Cosby characterized in closing arguments as “not a shred of physical evidence to connect my client to Gary Gill’s death.”

Wiggins was charged with second-degree murder, accused of shooting the 48-year-old Gill in the face on Dec. 15, 2009, in the bedroom of an apartment at 10th and Cameo known to most of the prosecution’s witnesses as “The Watering Hole.”

Prosecutors argued that Wiggins owed Gill a debt, possibly for drugs, and theorized he showed up to collect at the apartment rented by Jeraldine “Sue” McCoy.

McCoy was the prosecution’s chief witness, an admitted heavy drinker who initially told police she wasn’t home during the shooting, then changed her story. Cosby spent much of his defense strategy hammering away at McCoy’s testimony, including presenting an expert witness who disputed a polygraph test that Clovis police said proved she was telling the truth.

McCoy testified that Wiggins was in her apartment when Gill arrived the day of the homicide. She said she let Gill in, the two men walked back into the bedroom and a few minutes later she heard a shot.

McCoy said Wiggins walked out of the bedroom holding a handgun while wiping it down with a T-shirt. McCoy said Wiggins asked her to help move Gill’s body but she refused, demanding to know why he shot Gill in her home. She said Wiggins walked out the front door saying “I’m sorry.”

Wiggins testified he wasn’t in the apartment the day of the homicide and Cosby said he had witnesses that corroborated his client’s story.

Cosby told jurors there was an obvious conflict with the investigating agency — Clovis police — administering the polygraph test, then interpreting it to show her as being truthful.

Cosby noted that when his expert took a look at the polygraph, he knew within minutes “she was deceptive…it wasn’t even close.”

“If you can believe this woman,” Cosby told jurors, “you can convict my client.”

After about three hours of deliberation, the jury found Wiggins not guilty of the murder charge and not guilty of a charge of tampering with evidence. Wiggins was escorted from the courtroom in chains for the last time, awaiting Quinn’s signature later in the day that would release him as a free man.

Two of Gill’s relatives who attended all five days of the hearing left the courtroom in silence, declining to comment.