Jury finds Cotton guilty of murder in Boulevard fatal shooting

After brief deliberations Tuesday afternoon, the jury has found Joshua Cotton guilty of murder in the 2022 fatal shooting death of Alijah Watts.

Trial ended with closing comments from both the defense and the Commonwealth, with defense attorney Brandi Jones saying that this wasn’t an act done in cold blood—it happened in a scuffle over a gun and a tragedy occurred.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Bolen asked the jury to find Cotton guilty of murder, based on what she says was an intent to kill someone.

And the jury did, returning a verdict of guilty for murder. That came after two days of trial—the jury almost immediately moved into the sentencing phase of trial, which is where they work to determine the length of sentence he will serve. They heard from Alijah Watts’ mother, who told the jury that her life will never be the same again, and her son doesn’t get the option of a shorter sentence.

But they also heard from Cotton’s grandmother, who asked them for mercy, saying he made a tragic mistake that night that has forever changed both families.

After deliberating for some time, the jury decided to fix a sentence of 45 years in prison, with the possibility of parole. Judge John Atkins set final sentencing for November 1.

Cotton’s co-defendants in this case, Jonathan Weston and Christian McKeel, pled guilty to their roles in the incident earlier in the week. Weston entered a guilty plea to facilitation to first-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment, which comes with sentence of eight years and six months, while McKeel entered a guilty plea to facilitation to murder and second-degree robbery. That comes with a recommended sentence of 11 years.