Murder trial is delayed again

Bay St. Louis

Michael Hudson Burks has been scheduled on numerous occasions to go on trial for allegedly shot-gunning another man to death in July 2007 in Bay St. Louis.

But this week, a broken-down pickup truck and unpaid legal fees cost Burks a lawyer to defend him against charges that he shot and killed Gary Clifford Joiner, 42, after Joiner had allegedly stolen items from Burks’ FEMA trailer on Nassau Street. The two men had known each other well.

Burks, 65, is a former bail bondsman who previously had bailed out Joiner’s wife on criminal charges. He was scheduled yet again to go on trial for murder on Wednesday, after repeated delays.

But the trial ended up being put off again when veteran defense lawyer Albert Necaise, of Gulfport, came into court Wednesday and washed his hands of Burks as a client.

Necaise told Circuit Judge John Gargiulo he wanted to withdraw from the case because Burks had been uncooperative in helping to prepare for his own defense, and had paid no legal fees since Necaise began representing him in 2007.

“It’s difficult to represent someone who won’t cooperate with you,” Necaise said. “We agreed on a fee, and he hasn’t paid the first dime in fees. I am asking the court to allow me to withdraw.”

Necaise also told Gargiulo: “Fortunately for me, I’ve got more than one client.”

Burks, dressed in a brown pullover shirt and slacks, was summoned from the courtroom audience to face the judge. He admitted not showing up for at least one appointment at Necaise’s office, but said his pickup truck had been broken down and he was unable to make the trip.

Burks added that he had telephoned and left a message for the attorney, but never received a return call. “I thought I had cooperated,” he said.

Burks also told the judge he would like for Necaise to give him another chance. “I would love for him to stay on the case, because he’s as good as they come,” he said of his attorney. Necaise remained unswayed by the compliment.

The lawyer said he originally agreed to represent Burks because the defendant’s late father had been a well-respected attorney in Pearl River County. Burks has been waiting for his father’s estate to be settled, Necaise added, and Burks has been quarreling with his siblings over the assets.

Gargiulo inquired whether the defense and prosecution could be ready for trial immediately, if the case were to proceed.

“With me in it?” Necaise said. “No, sir.”

Assistant District Attorney Chris Fisher objected to any further trial delays, saying the state had an obligation to hold a speedy trial, as well as a fair one. But Gargiulo noted that the prosecution had never objected to numerous previous continuances granted Burks.

“I am somewhat concerned that it has taken this long for the state to get to this point,” the judge said.

Concluding that Burks and Necaise had “irreconcilable differences,” Gargiulo granted Necaise’s withdrawal request and set yet another trial date for April 5. He also told Burks to find another lawyer, petition for a court-appointed attorney, or even represent himself.

“You’ve got until April 5,” the judge said, adding, “the one thing that’s going to happen is, on April 5, this case is going to trial.”

The record shows that Burks appears to have received leniency in the murder case from the beginning. After Joiner was killed, Burks was released from the Bay St. Louis Police Department within hours on $20,000 bond. He was never transported to the county holding facility for booking, as suspects routinely are on far less serious charges.

After being indicted in May 2008, Burks failed to show up in court for arraignment.

He was surrendered by his bail bondsman and jailed. But after a brief time behind bars, he was set free on another bond of $40,000. Since then, the numerous continuances have been granted for a trial date.

Necaise entered court Wednesday bearing his files on the Burks case. They included two thick, loose-leaf notebooks and a red folder. He told Gargiulo he was offering to turn the records over to Burks personally, and the judge agreed for those arrangements to be made.

“I’d like to give it to him today,” Necaise said. “It’s all cataloged out.”

The judge consented. Necaise walked over and put the case records on a table before Burks, and Gargiulo then dismissed the defendant.

Burks picked up the files and left the courtroom with a woman acquaintance, holding his future in his hands.

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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