Huntsville church pantry double murder case opens Wednesday, prosecution seeking death penalty

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The jury has been selected for the death penalty trial of accused double-murderer Richard Burgin, and the two sides will begin with opening statements Wednesday morning.

Burgin is accused of killing Terry and Anthony Jackson at West Huntsville United Methodist Church, while they worked in the church’s food bank in May 2013.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty, arguing the stabbing deaths of the elderly brothers was “heinous, atrocious and cruel.”

The defense maintains Burgin didn’t commit the crime.

Burgin was arrested about seven months after the stabbings when police say they matched his DNA in a database to DNA found on a cup near the crime scene.

The jury panel, with two unidentified alternates, includes eight women and six men.

The jury panel has one African-American juror. The defense challenged the makeup of the jury panel Tuesday afternoon.

The defense pointed out the prosecution struck five of six African-Americans who remained in the jury pool after another nine African-American potential jurors were struck by mutual agreement, or for cause.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Batson vs. Kentucky, prosecutors have to show they have “race neutral” reasons for striking black jurors, if the jury make-up is challenged by the defense.

The prosecution today listed its reasons for the strikes, including pointing out one juror had a close relative who was convicted of murder and another juror who indicated on a jury questionnaire that the prosecution should be held to a higher standard in death penalty cases.

Madison County Circuit Judge Karen Hall denied the defense motion, finding the prosecution had shown its jury strikes were for race-neutral reasons.

The judge also told the jury that she had granted a prosecution motion to allow the jurors to visit the crime scene and the nearby area as part of the prosecution’s case.

Opening statements are expected to begin around 9 a.m. and Judge Hall said the trial could go into next week.