District Attorney Tony Buckley

DA: Judge can be impartial

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Nothing in Greg Burroughs’ motion for recusal suggests that Judge Dal Williamson can’t be impartial, District Attorney Tony Buckley filed in response to the request.

Judge Dal Williamson

“Nothing in the Defendant’s motion rises any inference of prejudice against the Defendant,” Buckley wrote. “In fact, the Affidavit of the Defendant raises more potential bias against the State of Mississippi …”

In the motion filed by Burroughs’ attorney Tracy Klein on Nov. 28, it was stated that the judge could not be impartial because of his heated political race with ex-Judge Billy Joe Landrum, who is now a member of Burroughs’ defense team. The motion also noted Williamson’s past representation of two of Burroughs’ aunts in chancery court matters and the defendant’s mother’s letters of support for Williamson’s future son-in-law in 2003 and 2010 when he was charged with a felony.

“Most of the facts contained in the affidavit of the defendant relate to Dr. Susie Burroughs … writing letters in support of the judge’s son-in-law, who was a childhood friend of Dr. Burroughs’ younger son, not the defendant,” Buckley wrote. “These letters do not reflect a possible disqualification of the Judge as they would show bias, if any, against the State of Mississippi and in favor of the Defendant.”

Buckley noted that he doesn’t believe there is a conflict and “has never had an occasion to question the impartiality of Judge Williamson in this case or any other matter.”

Buckley also addressed the defense’s concern that its client’s aunts, Renee and Rachel Burroughs, and his uncle Robert Burroughs may be called as witnesses.

But none of them has any personal knowledge and were not witnesses to the event or circumstances that led to the criminal charges, Buckley continued, so they are not expected to be called as witnesses.

“The fact that the Judge represented Rachel Burroughs and Renee Burroughs in unrelated matters several years ago does not create a conflict,” Buckley wrote.

The defense’s motion also noted that Williamson asked Robert Burroughs for his support in the race against Landrum. Williamson’s request was denied. “That rejection and my family’s substantial financial donations to Billy Joe Landrum in the race against Judge Williamson resulted in a diminished relationship between my family and Judge Williamson,” the defendant wrote in his motion.

But Buckley countered that wouldn’t have an impact in the judge’s ability “to be fair and impartial to the uncle’s nephew, who is the defendant.”

“It would be expected that such an inquiry would be made in light of the fact the Judge represented members of the family in personal matters,” he continued.

Buckley also included some judicial codes and precedent for when recusal is called for, when “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” because of a “personal bias” or “personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts.”

“The Court presumes a judge is qualified and unbiased,” Buckley wrote. “To overcome the presumption, the evidence must produce a ‘reasonable doubt,’” Buckley wrote, and added that the defense’s motion doesn’t meet that standard.

Williamson has acknowledge receiving the motion to recuse and wrote, in an order, that the he is in the middle of a term of court with a trial set for this week and upcoming holidays. Because of that, either party who wants to have a hearing about the motion will have to let him know, in writing, by Friday.

“If neither side makes a written request for a hearing by that date, then the Court will proceed to rule on the Motion based upon the pleadings, affidavits and attachments filed,” he wrote.

Greg Burroughs is accused of shooting his 23-year-old girlfriend Katherine Sinclair in the head on the night of June 1. She was found in the driver’s seat of her Honda in the garage of his home in the gated community Windermere. He claimed that she shot herself. Burroughs was questioned and released pending crime lab results. The grand jury indicted him for manslaughter in October.

He is out on $125,000 bond and his trial is set for June 6.