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Child murder trial began Wednesday

With the 14-day jury selection process complete, attorneys plead their case


After more than three years behind bars in the Clackamas County Jail, Donald Lee Cockrell today, Wednesday, Jan. 30, will face the 12 people who will decide his fate.

Cockrell, 30, is charged with aggravated murder and criminal mistreatment in the January 2010 death of his 3-year-old daughter, Alexis M. Pounder.

She was found lifeless in the Sandy home where her extended family was living. The state medical examiner said the girl died of “physical and nutritional child abuse.”

A sheriff’s deputy alleges that either Cockrell or his fiancee at the time, Michelle Nicole Smith, 27, or both of them beat and starved the girl until she died. A court document identified the reason for death as “blunt force trauma and starvation.”

It took the two teams of attorneys 14 days in court this month to agree on 12 jurors and three alternates.

Judge Susie Norby set the first day of trial for today, when each attorney will plead her case in the opening statements.

Deputy District Attorney Christine Landers is leading the prosecution, while Jenny Cooke is in charge of Cockrell’s defense.

Smith also was charged in the child’s death. Another of Cockrell’s children had similar signs of mistreatment but was still alive when deputies were called to the death of Alexis.

Smith pleaded guilty in a plea agreement that requires her testimony against her former fiance. If she testifies, she is guaranteed only a 30-year sentence without parole for her actions in the case.

Cockrell, however, pleaded not guilty. If the jury finds him guilty, he could be sentenced to life without parole or the death penalty if all 12 jurors agree or parole after 30 years if 10 jurors agree.

The trial is scheduled to continue daily in Norby’s courtroom at the Clackamas County Courthouse in Oregon City.