By C.V. Moore
A man accused of stomping to death a fellow inmate at Mount Olive Correctional Complex was found guilty of murder in the first degree by a Fayetteville jury Wednesday and sentenced to life without mercy.
This latest is one in a series of charges and convictions for violent crimes allegedly committed by Christopher D. Cox, originally of Spencer, Roane County.
The victim, Joseph B. Braddock Jr., died of blunt force injuries to the head, according to a medical examiner who gave testimony on the second day of a two-day trial that began Tuesday.
He said the man received at least 10 blows and was covered with patterned injuries suggesting he was stomped.
“James Braddock may have been an inmate at Mount Olive, but that doesn’t make his life any less valuable than anyone else’s,” Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris told the jury in his closing argument.
“He deserved the chance to complete his sentence and walk out. But he never got that chance because this defendant took his life. And he took it in one of the worst ways you can take someone’s life — by stomping him. You have to know James Braddock felt every one of those kicks to his head.”
On Sept. 24, 2011, both men were in the prison’s recreational area and entered into a conversation that ended when Braddock spit in Cox’s face.
According to testimony by correctional officers, Braddock was called to leave the area and turned to go when he was struck in the back of the head by Cox.
He fell to the ground and the assault continued as police sprayed pepper spray into the area and called on Cox to stop the beating. But only after Cox dragged the man by his feet and finished the beating did he submit to authorities.
A camera that would have caught all angles of the beating had not been working for several weeks, meaning a visual record of the event was severely limited.
Nevertheless, the jury was subjected to a video of the several minute-long ordeal, presented as evidence by the state.
Several inmates who witnessed the killing by Cox, whom they knew as “Slim,” also gave testimony via teleconference.
One testified that Braddock had attempted to pay him $2,500 to kill Cox prior to the incident, but never came up with the money.
Cox himself gave an articulate, even-keeled testimony of the events that day in the prison yard. He said rumors were circulating that someone was out to get him.
He approached Braddock to address the situation, he said, but the man got aggressive and spit at him. He also claimed Braddock threw the first punch.
“He asked me if I wanted to eat metal, meaning did I want to get stabbed,” Cox testified. “I thought he was going to pull a knife on me.”
Four people were stabbed in the last two months in the recreational area, said Cox.
He admitted to striking several blows to the man, but said he did not intend to kill him.
“All I knew was attack or lay down. I wasn’t going to die that day. I was going to do my time and go home. I didn’t think about nothing but walking off that rec yard that day, and that’s what I did,” said Cox.
His attorney, Jim Adkins, urged jurors to take their time in deliberation and carefully consider the issue of premeditation. He said his client was provoked and did not intend to kill that day.
This was Cox’s second murder conviction.
In 2005, Cox stabbed and shot a Spencer man during an armed robbery. He was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree robbery, for which he was serving a 10-year sentence.
Even after charges were brought against him for the Braddock murder, Cox was again indicted for a violent crime against a fellow inmate. In September 2012, a grand jury indicted him on malicious assault and attempted murder charges for allegedly trying to kill inmate Talbert Dehaven with a broken broomstick.
Braddock’s family is reportedly suing Mount Olive and several correctional officers over the man’s death, according to media reports. They say the prison did not adequately train its officers to deal with the beating and failed to give the man proper medical attention that could have saved his life.
He was serving a 15-year sentence for delivery of cocaine, which he allegedly gave to two 14-year-old boys with whom he had sex with on a trip to Pittsburgh.
Harris says he thinks the conviction of first degree murder with no mercy was “justified based on the facts.”
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