Man convicted of double murder at Huntsville church wants conviction overturned or new trial

HUNTSVILLE,  Ala. -- A Huntsville man sentenced to life in prison in the fatal stabbing two brothers at a church food bank in May 2013 wants his guilty verdict overturned or a new trial, arguing there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him.

Richard Burgin, 54, will get a hearing next month on his requests before Madison County Circuit Judge Karen Hall.

The filings claim there was no evidence linking Burgin to being inside the church the day of the murders and the evidence that was presented was insufficient to sustain a conviction.

Burgin’s lawyers Chad Morgan and Larry Marsili also contend Burgin did not get a fair trial and should get a new day in court. They argue in the court filing that the prosecution was allowed to introduce robbery as a motive for the killings – through the testimony of a crime scene investigator – but they had been given no prior notice about that contention.

Burgin had faced the death penalty in the killings of Anthony and Terry Jackson at the West Huntsville United Methodist Church. Anthony Jackson was 76 when he was killed, Terry Jackson was 69. Burgin was convicted of capital murder in May and the jury recommended by an 8 to 4 vote that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But, because Burgin was indicted before the Alabama Legislature changed the law this year ending the power of judges in capital murder cases to override a jury recommendation on sentencing, Judge Hall had the last word.

Under Alabama law a capital murder conviction requires one of two possible sentences, life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

At Burgin’s Aug. 22 sentencing a cousin of the Jacksons urged the court to give Burgin the death penalty. Prosecutors argued Burgin deserved to die for the attacks, citing the number of stab wounds and the suffering the brothers endured before they died.

But the jury had found that life in prison was a more appropriate sentence. The defense had offered testimony about Burgin’s longstanding mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder problems and his struggles with drug addiction.

Hall sentenced Burgin to life in prison without parole.

There were no eyewitnesses to the crime. The prosecution’s case against Burgin hinged on four items found by a Huntsville Police Department K-9, “Boone,” hidden in bushes near the scene of the killings.

The items included a knife, a church flier, a bloody towel and a red plastic cup.

The prosecution established that the cup had Burgin’s DNA on it and the church flyer had Burgin’s DNA on it. The knife had the victims’ blood on it and the towel had Terry Jackson’s blood on it.

But the defense argued during the trial and again in the new court filings, that the items apparently involved in the killings – the knife and bloody towel showed no signs of Burgin’s DNA – and the flier and cup could have wound up in the bushes at any point, not automatically at the time of the murders.

And, they argue that despite the significant amount of blood at the crime scene, there is no blood on the cup or the flier that can be matched to Burgin.

The defense submitted the filings Tuesday.