Cochran pleads not guilty in death of husband, trial date set

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Natalie Cochran has pled not guilty to the murder of her husband Michael.

On Jan. 29, Natalie Cochran appeared in court to be arraigned on first-degree murder charges. She’s accused of poisoning her late husband.

She is currently serving 11 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges related to a Ponzi scheme.

One year before she was charged with the scheme charges, her husband, Michael Cochran, died unexpectedly. She was initially arraigned but was not found guilty. Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield decided he would drop the case, but only if Michael’s body could be examined for a second time.

Upon a second viewing by forensic pathologists from Texas, it was determined that Michael’s death was a homicide.

His cause of death was due to the unprescribed extreme amount of insulin in his body, despite not being a diabetic. Cochran was then reindited with first-degree murder charges.

During her arraignment, she appeared before Judge H. L. Kirkpatrick and pled not guilty. Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield said that he is ready to take the case to trial.

“The state is ready,” said Hatfield. ” I believe that Michael Cochran’s family is ready, and I believe it gives plenty enough time for the defense to prepare for a fair trial. So I want that August 12 date to happen, and the state is going to do everything to put in place safeguards and to meet deadlines so that, at least on our part, it happens as is scheduled.”

Due to Natalie’s not-guilty plea, she will now have to go to trial. Her defense attorneys say that she would like to do as many pretrial dates by video, but she will attend the final pretrial and the trial itself in person.

“She’s decided that it would be more convenient for her to be here by Polycom, and the state can completely accommodate that,” Hatfield said

Hatfield said that the state needs to take several steps to bring Cochran to the court. She must be escorted by one male and one female state trooper.

“Last night they traveled up, spent the night. They transported her down here this morning and was transported back today. The situation will be a bit different when it comes time for the August trial date because a trial lasts over several days,” he said.

A major revelation from Cochran’s defense team was that they plan to exhume and examine Michael Cochran’s body.

It would be the third time that his body is examined. The first time he was examined was when he passed away. The second time was at Prosecutor Ben Hatfield’s request, who does not think that it is a worthwhile effort to re-examine the body for a third time.

“I believe it would be a futile effort. Whether or not the judge would grant that, I would have to defer to him,” Hatfield said. “I would oppose it just based on what probative value that could potentially yield.”

A major part of the arraignment was the hammering out of deadlines. Hatfield said that he wants to make sure that both sides have firm deadlines for discovery.

“So that going into the July pretrial conference and the August 12th trial. We’ll each know what the trial is about. That’s what the discovery process is for,” he said.

Hatfield says that he is not worried about seating a jury no matter what needs to be done to find members who are not biased about the case already and ultimately, he believes whatever verdict the jury comes to is the right one.

“I want justice, and I want the truth to come out. I’m a truth seeker, not a conviction seeker. So I want the absolute truth about what happened to Michael Brandon Cochran to come out and whatever that is, whatever the jury decides that is that will be the right decision,” Hatfield said. “The jury never gets it wrong. If I don’t get a conviction or if a prosecutor doesn’t get a conviction, they put on a subpar case or they’ve done a subpar job.”

During Natalie’s arraignment, her defense attorneys argued they needed more time to gather more evidence. The judge then said they have until June 3 to gather all that they needed.

The trial date has been set for August 12, 2024.

Newswatch will be there to provide you with everything you need to know every step of the way.

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