Burgess found guilty of murder

Friday, June 22, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

A Lewisburg man is facing life in prison after a jury pronounced him guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday at the end of a two and a half day trial.

Phillip Burgess, 33, was accused of murdering Joey Perryman, 48, on Aug. 7, 2011, at No. 7, Martin Street Apartments.

The jury of five women and seven men took a little more than an hour to return the guilty verdict. Jury members also found Burgess guilty of the attempted first-degree murder of Jordan Beavers, 16, as well as aggravated assault on Hunter Keel, 14.

Burgess was also charged with aggravated assault on Jeanette Belew, but was found not guilty of this.

Assistant District Attorneys Eddie Barnard and Mike Randles painstakingly built the case against Burgess, calling 16 witnesses, and presenting over 40 pieces of evidence.

The last witness was Dr. Adele Lewis, forensic pathologist and deputy chief medical examiner. She told the jury that Perryman was pronounced dead at 9:43 p.m. The single bullet broke his 10th rib, and lacerated his liver and one of his kidneys, as well as ripping through his back muscles on the way out.

Lewis stated Perryman would have been in "a great deal" of pain from this wound before he died.

"What was the cause of his death?" asked Randles.

"A gunshot wound to the torso," Lewis replied.

"What was the manner of his death?" Randles continued.

"Homicide," answered Lewis.

After Lewis's testimony Wednesday morning, the prosecution rested its case. The defendant then had to decide whether to testify. Burgess spent 30 minutes in animated discussion with his attorneys, Michael Collins and Bill Harold of the Public Defender's Office.

Finally Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler called Burgess to the podium and asked if he wanted to exercise his right to testify.

"The audio tape was good enough, so no," Burgess replied.

He was referring to a taped statement played for the jury in which he talked about four "bad Mexicans" bursting in as he was sitting with Belew in her apartment. They wouldn't back off, Burgess said, so he shot in self-defense.

"He's making this story up from the movies," Barnard said during his closing argument. "This was not self-defense, not even close. That's just cold-blooded killing."

Barnard commended the jury for paying "100 percent attention."

"You have been glued to the facts as presented," Barnard said.

Doing the best he could for his client with his closing argument, Harold tried to discredit the eyewitnesses, stating, "They're all friends and relations of the victim; they've got a bias there. Two of the eyewitnesses are teenage boys, one of whom admitted he lied."

"Joey Perryman was the aggressor here," Harold said. "Joey swung the bottle at him, and he shot, then shot two more times in a panic."

According to Harold, Burgess was surprised when police told him his bullets hit two people, and exclaimed, "I wasn't trying to kill anyone!"

After the defense's closing argument, the prosecution is allowed to have the last word.

"When he came back, he had formed the intent to kill," Randles said. "The important part is he came back. You can't come back and claim self defense. In his version, it all happened on one occasion, but no witnesses testified to that. His story doesn't match any of the testimony or physical evidence.

"If you don't think it's self defense, it is first-degree murder," Randles concluded. "He waged war that day."

Jury members agreed with him, visibly distressing members of Burgess' family who had been in the courtroom throughout the trial.

Burgess will be sentenced on Aug. 8, but for first-degree murder, since the prosecution did not ask for the death penalty, the choices are only "life in prison" and "life in prison without the possibility of parole."