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UPDATE: Jerry Burns, convicted of killing Michelle Martinko, officially sentenced to life in prison

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - Jerry Burns was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for the murder of Michelle Martinko.

Burns was found guilty of first degree murder in February for the 1979 killing of Martinko, a high school teen, in Cedar Rapids.

Lawyers for Burns filed a motion for a new trial in June, which Judge Hoover denied Friday. The motion was citing a violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments, claiming the court erred by not suppressing the state's search and seizure of Burns' and Burns' family members' DNA evidence.

This hearing was also postponed several times due to the pandemic.

UPDATE: Family and friends of both Jerry Burns and Michelle Martinko were allowed to be present in the courtroom today as he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After hearing arguments from both sides Judge Hoover ultimately sided with the State and denied Burns' motion for a new trial.

Along with constitutional concerns his Lawyer, Leon Spies cited 'new evidence' from a music teacher who had given lessons to Martinko at the Westdale Mall.

Spies attempted to cast doubt on the jury's verdict, claiming someone else was waiting for her after her lesson and attacked her elsewhere.

However, the 'new evidence' needed to meet several standards, including that it could not have been found during the pretrial investigation and that it may have changed the outcome of the verdict.

"I am not persuaded that the testimony if it had been presented in the manner in which it is shown to us by way of affidavit, that it would have probably changed the result of the trial," said Hoover.

Assistant Linn County Attorney, Nick Maybanks argued information from Martinko's music teacher wasn't new and the court had already ruled to allow Burns' DNA to be used at trial, cited in one of Spies' concerns.

"This focus," said Maybanks, "I think is a red herring, Your Honor, because, Miss Martinko was found in her car, the evidence showed that there was very little doubt that she was not killed in her car."

After Hoover denied all motions for a new trial, Burns got an opportunity to address the court before the sentencing. He again maintained his innocence and thanked his family for support.

"I would first like to say that someone else stabbed Michelle to death in that car that night," said Burns.

Martinko's brother-in-law, John Stonebaker made a statement via pre-recorded video at the hearing. He referred back to the evidence and said Martinko was her own best witness.

Stonebaker added because Martinko fought for her life and caused the killer to stab himself, he left the DNA that caught him at the scene. The DNA in which was found to be a match to Burns'.

"Still, Mr. Jerry Burns was clever enough to steal 39 years of freedom he didn't deserve and he knows it. And without a hint of shame, he said as much. And in another sense, in the most selfish act a human being is capable of, he stole those 39 years and many more from a sweet smart, talented girl who never got her chance at college, a career, marriage, children and by now, even grandchildren," said Stonebaker.

Stonebaker also wished the Burns family well. As they now have to pick up the pieces, just like the Martinko family did, who he said has lived in anguish for two decades.

He added their family will take solace in knowing Burns' will die in prison, forgotten for the immense pain he's caused so many.

"Our family's spent 39 Christmases under a shadow without answers, a shadow that never left... 39 Christmases," said Stonebaker.

On top of life in prison without parole, Burns was also ordered to pay restitution of $150,000 to Martinko's estate. However, Stonebaker said it doesn't begin to repay what he took from their family.

Burns can file for an appeal, he would need to submit the paperwork within 30-days.
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