Burks murder trial delayed one more time

Yet another delay has been granted in the murder trial of Michael Hudson Burks, but his new attorney said he will ask that poor acoustic conditions in Hancock County’s main courtroom be improved before an October trial date arrives.

Bay St. Louis attorney Jimmy McGuire appeared in Circuit Court Monday to represent the 65-year-old Burks, who is charged with killing Gary Clifford Joiner, 42, in July 2007. The death occurred during a disagreement near Burks’ home on Nassau Street in Bay St. Louis.

Judge Larry Bourgeois set an Oct. 4 trial date for Burks, whose trial has already been continued numerous times. He had most recently been scheduled for trial this week.

But after leaving court Monday, McGuire said his first piece of business will be filing a motion to get audio conditions improved in the courtroom itself. After being heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina, the courthouse on Main Street was renovated and a new wing was added.

The courthouse reopened last August, but lawyers have since complained about noise conditions in the high-ceilinged, 1911-era courtroom. Conversations are badly distorted by poor audio. Sound bounces wildly around the courtroom, and footsteps on the original wooden floors can sound like gunshots.

Among other motions he intends to introduce in the Burks case, McGuire said, “I’m going to file a motion for the county to make that courtroom acoustically correct.”

Hancock County supervisors have known of the noise problem for months, and were given a price to remedy the problem, but that has never occurred. County Attorney Ronnie Artigues said Monday that he has recently had discussions with another audio expert on the matter.

Although attorneys have been complaining privately about the acoustics problem, McGuire may be the first to officially raise it through legal channels.

“I want the jury to hear every word” in the Burks trial, he said. “I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t mind rocking the boat. I’m going to rock it.”

Burks, a former bail bondsman, is charged with killing Joiner with a shotgun. Burks is also charged with embezzlement in a separate proceeding, and is represented by McGuire in both cases.

McGuire said he feels confident about the murder case. The night of the killing, he said, Burks had confronted Joiner after the victim stole items from the defendant’s trailer. Joiner was armed and hostile and under the influence of drugs at the time and the shotgun discharged as the two men argued, McGuire said.

“I think this is a great case,” McGuire added.

Burks’ former attorney, Albert Necaise, recently gained permission to be removed from the case because he said Burks had never paid him, and was uncooperative in preparing for his own trial.

BY J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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