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Pensacola News Journal
Sean Smith, @PensacolaNewsJournal.com
PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 2003
Before the jury heard the first arguments Tuesday in the trial of Andrea Cobb, shooting victim Nancy Browning had to defend her desire to stay in the courtroom.
Hobbled by a .32-caliber bullet lodged against her spine for more than a year, Browning – using a cane – limped past the defendant to the witness stand.
Cobb buried her face in a paper napkin and wept.
Cobb, 62, faces two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm stemming from an incident in the parking lot at Holy Cross Metropolitan Community Church on April 28, 2002.
Andrea Cobb during her trial. S. K. Vemmer @PensacolaNewsJournal.com
Defense attorney Michael Van Cavage filed a motion to exclude Browning from sitting in the courtroom before and after she testified, saying her presence would prejudice the jury. But Circuit Judge Michael Jones allowed Browning to stay.
The trial at the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Buildin is expected to conclude today.
Prosecutor Ed Zeitlin maintains Cobb knew what she was doing when she shot Joyce Anderson, described as Cobb’s ex-lover, and Browning, a bystander who tried to break up the confrontation.
Van Cavage did not dispute that Cobb shot Anderson and Browning. His defense focused on Cobb’s state of mind.
“A very tragic, sad event took place,” Van Cavage said. “The issue is whether or not (Cobb) was involuntarily intoxicated or not sane.”
Van Cavage said Cobb was under four different mind-altering medications, including Xanex and Prozac, and could have been misusing them.
Psychology experts are to testify today.
Browning’s time on the witness stand appeared to provide the most compelling part of the prosecution’s case Tuesday.
Browning told jurors she saw Anderson gripped in fear as Cobb pursued her around vehicles in the church parking lot the day of the shooting.
“She was terrified beyond words. I have never seen anyone so fearful in my life,” Browning said. “I instinctively grabbed her and put her behind me. I told her: She won’t shoot you if you get behind me. (Cobb) was right there.
“I said, `Please don’t shoot. Don’t shoot,’ ” Browning said. “Her eyes were full of so much anger and hate – to me, evil.”
Browning, paralyzed on her right side below the hip, was presented a medal April 20 from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for her actions that day.
“She risked her life to save someone else who was in peril,” said Doug Chambers, managing director of the Carnegie commission.
Tuesday’s testimony also detailed Cobb’s troubles leading up to the shooting.
Cobb and Anderson had been in a relationship for more than 14 years. But when Anderson ended it, Cobb grew depressed. Pensacola police investigators said Cobb confronted Anderson in the church parking lot after a morning church service. They argued, and Cobb shot Anderson in the hand, police said. She then began chasing Anderson. That’s when Browning interceded.
Pensacola police Detective Erik Goss said Cobb did not remember shooting Browning, but she later told him she was aiming at Anderson. Other witnesses said that before the shooting, they noted nothing strange in Cobb’s behavior that day.
Defense witnesses described Cobb, a grandmother and the mother of two, as a caring and loving person for whom violence was completely out of character.
Co-workers told how the quality of Cobb’s work at the Whitney Bank branch on Nine Mile Road slipped in the weeks before the shooting. She had been a standout teller there for three years.
“We told her we want the old Andrea back. What’s going on?” branch manager Todd Goodlowe said. Goodlowe testified that Cobb told him that her medication was giving her problems.
Today, Jones will rule on jury instructions submitted by Van Cavage on involuntary intoxication, indicating Cobb might have used too much medication. “We are still trying to fight that legally,” Zeitlin said. “Insanity is pretty straightforward. We don’t know how the judge will rule on that. There are some very confusing areas on that.”