Defense seeks judge recusal

Jones County Sheriff’s Lt. Robert Little, right, points to a photo of seized drugs as JCSD Public Information Officer Allyson Knotts holds the photo and Sheriff Alex Hodge looks on. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

Attorney cites family ties, hurt feelings over political race

An attorney for Greg Burroughs has filed a motion asking Judge Dal Williamson to recuse himself from presiding over his client’s court proceedings, claiming that his “impartiality might be questioned” because of connections to the family and his heated political race against co-counsel Billy Joe Landrum.

“Robert Burroughs (my uncle) rejected a personal request from Judge Williamson for my family’s open support and financial assistance in his race against Billy Joe Landrum,” according to the motion filed in Jones County Circuit Court this week. “This rejection and my family’s open support and substantial financial donations to Billy Joe Landrum in the race against Judge Williamson resulted in a diminished relationship between my family and Judge Williamson.

“Likewise, there exists a diminished relationship between my attorney, Billy Joe Landrum and Judge Williamson. Robert Burroughs may be called as a witness in the trial of this matter.”

That was the sixth and final point of an affidavit supporting the motion for Williamson to recuse himself from being involved in the manslaughter case involving Greg Burroughs, 38, who is accused of firing the shot that killed his girlfriend, 23-year-old Katherine Sinclair, in June at his home in Windermere.

The other points make references to family connections that would appear to work in favor of Burroughs.

The affidavit notes that in October 2003, the defendant’s mother, Susie Burroughs, wrote letters to a circuit judge, the state parole board and then-Judge Hayley Barbour in support of Williamson’s son-in-law, Greg Gibbes.

Gibbes was charged with aggravated DUI after causing a crash that killed Ole Miss student Laura Treppendahl in Oxford in February 2003. He was ordered to serve one year of a 10-year sentence. The victim’s parents were among the people asking Judge Henry Lackey for leniency. The judge said that he received 200 letters in support of Gibbes, more than he received in any case.

Copies of the letters Susie Burroughs wrote were included in the motion and they reflect “the close, personal relationship between me (Greg Burroughs) and the spouse of the Judge’s daughter,” according to the affidavit. It was noted that Gibbes and Susie Burroughs may be called as character witnesses.

The letters that were written by Susie Burroughs had glowing descriptions of Gibbes.

“In all of the years I have known (Gibbes), I can say I have never found him to be anything except warm and loving, kind and generous, thoughtful and respectful,” she wrote to Lackey. “Having worked and saved money to go back to school, Gregg’s world was turned upside down in a horrible moment. Loving him like a son, my heart is broken for (Gibbes) and all involved in this tragedy. It is unimaginable that the little boy I have watched grow into such a fine young man could find himself charged as he is.”

In her letter to Barbour and the parole board asking for a pardon for Gibbes, she wrote that he “consistently presented himself as a principled young man whose goals were to go to college, earn a degree, have a family, and become a contributing member of society.” She went on to write that his “character is impeccable” and his “civic virtue is equally well known and respected in his home town and county.”

She described how he worked his way through college, first at Jones County Junior College then at the University of Southern Mississippi, earning a double master’s degree. “It is a certainty that he is on the road to complete his degree program and to become a conscientious and contributing tax-paying citizen of the great state of Mississippi,” she continued. “His drive to succeed is appropriately ambitious, and I know he will reach every goal he sets for himself.”

Susie Burroughs was serving as interim head of Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education at Mississippi State University at the time she wrote the petition for pardon. Gibbes was one of more than 200 felons to be pardoned by Barbour at the end of his second and last term as governor in 2012.

The affidavit also noted that Williamson was the attorney for two of Burroughs’ aunts — Renee Burroughs in a prenuptial agreement in 2006 and Rachel Burroughs in a grandparents’ rights case in 2012. Both aunts may be called as witnesses in the trial, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit is notarized by the defendant’s brother, Michael Burroughs.

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