Witness testimony underway in Michelle Martinko murder trial in Scott County

By  | 

SCOTT Co., Iowa (KWQC) - Witness testimony is underway in the trial of the man accused of fatally stabbing a Cedar Rapids teenager more than 40 years ago.

Jerry Burns, 65, of Manchester, is accused of killing Michelle Martinko, 18, almost 40 years ago. (Cedar Rapids Police Department)

Jerry Burns, 66, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Michelle Martinko, who was last seen alive in 1979 at a mall in Cedar Rapids. The next day, she was found dead inside her parents' vehicle.

DNA evidence tied Burns to the crime.

Jury selection for the trial began on Monday. After it took two full days to pick a jury, Wednesday was the first opportunity for opening statements and testimony from witnesses.

All of the witnesses that spoke were either friends or classmates of Michelle Martinko, speaking about what they remembered about her and the night she was killed.

Wednesday also marked the first time the legal teams had a chance to make their case to jurors.

Burns' attorneys argued the DNA evidence should be thrown out because police didn't use a warrant to obtain it. They followed him and retrieved a discarded drinking straw. A judge later ruled it could be included.

On Wednesday, his attorneys also questioned the handling of the evidence. The defense said they have a forensic expert prepared to testify to disprove the claims surrounding the DNA evidence.

The trial is expected to last two weeks. It was moved to Scott County because of years of publicity in Cedar Rapids.