Jury begins deliberations in Richard Burgin double murder case

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. --  The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes Monday afternoon in the double murder trial of Richard Burgin, who could face a death sentence if he is convicted.

Deliberations by the six-woman, six-man jury will resume Tuesday morning.

The case against Burgin centers on DNA and fingerprint evidence found about a block from the crime scene, near a knife and bloody rag that had the victims' DNA and blood. Prosecutors told the jury Monday morning the evidence ties together and points to Burgin.

The defense countered that there is no evidence of Burgin’s DNA or fingerprints at the crime scene, and the DNA on a red cup and his fingerprints on a church bulletin don’t contain any traces of the victims’ DNA.

Burgin is accused of killing elderly brothers Anthony and Terry Jackson while they were setting up the weekly food bank at West Huntsville United Methodist Church on May 21, 2013.

Tim Gann, chief trial attorney for the Madison County District Attorney’s office, told jurors that Burgin likely killed the Jackson brothers because he was looking for money to buy drugs. He said Terry Jackson’s multiple wounds show he fought Burgin before he was fatally stabbed. Anthony Jackson had cerebral palsy, Gann said. Any of the three stab wounds he received would have been fatal, according to medical examiner testimony introduced during the trial.

Gann argued the trail that a Huntsville Police Department K-9, “Boone” tracked led to the cup with Burgin’s DNA being located on the sidewalk about a block away. It was the same direction that a neighbor saw a man head after leaving the church. The cup was found near bushes where the dog located a bloody rag with Terry Jackson’s blood on it and right next to it, a bulletin from the church with Burgin’s fingerprints on it.

The dog found the knife in a bush a few feet away, Gann reminded jurors.

He said the scent the dog followed went from the church to the bushes, then down some backstreets and alleys to Seminole Drive, where it lost the scent.

The only four items the dog focused on either had Burgin’s DNA or items from the murder scene, Gann said.

Gann argued the proximity of the items to the church, and together in the bushes, made sense, because Burgin dumped them as soon as he was out of view of the neighbor who was sitting on his porch across from the church. Gann said it wasn’t simply bad luck that led to Burgin’s DNA and fingerprints next to items from a murder scene.

The prosecution also played jail phone call recordings of Burgin talking to his girlfriend after she spoke to the DA’s office investigators last month.  Gann noted that she described Burgin as sometimes needing a cane. The neighbor who saw an unidentified black male entering and leaving the church the day of the murders said the man seemed to have a slight limp when entering the church.

The prosecution also argued that the phone calls show Burgin and his girlfriend “getting their stories straight” regarding an incident that she recounted to investigators. She recalled noticing him with a scratch on his neck – and Burgin replying that it came from when he stabbed someone.

The defense argued that she also said Burgin was joking when he said that, and the prosecution was ignoring that detail.

The defense argued that the prosecution’s case didn’t add up. Defense attorney Larry Marsili said there was no piece of evidence that put Burgin at the murder scene and no traces of his DNA or fingerprints at the church.

Marsili argued the cup could have been picked up by Burgin from any number of locations and the DNA testing cannot establish when he came into contact with the cup. Marsili also stressed that the murder weapon and bloody rag don’t show any Burgin DNA. He pointed out the church bulletin that Burgin allegedly took from the church remained white, with no traces of blood, despite the bloody crime scene.

The defense argued that police investigators never showed witnesses from the neighborhood a picture of Burgin – to confirm he was the man they saw hurrying away on the day of the murders – or canvassed the area to pick up security camera footage.

And, the defense pointed out that state’s witness who saw a man entering the church and leaving a few minutes later holding a red cup, a piece of paper and another item did not identify that man as Burgin.

But the prosecution argued in its final closing argument that the defense wanted the jury to look at the evidence in separate boxes, rather than as connected items. Dill said time and proximity made the case. He said the fact that the dog found the items tied to Burgin or the murders within an hour of the crime, just a block from the church, made it clear Burgin killed the Jackson brothers.

“He got away with it for a little while,” Assistant DA Randy Dill argued. “But science caught up to him. The time and place caught up to him and it ends here.”

The jury is expected to get the case around 2:15 p.m. Monday.