Burroughs won’t testify

Greg Burroughs, left, and Judge Dal Williamson

 MEADVILLE — Greg Burroughs took the witness stand on Monday afternoon … to tell Judge Dal Williamson that he won’t be testifying in his own defense in front of the jury.

The routine trial procedure took less than five minutes, but with that, the defense rested after the state called its last witness. Two defense witnesses testified earlier in the trial, out of turn, to accommodate travel plans. 

The judge and attorneys stayed inside a closed courtroom for a little more than an hour to hash out jury instructions that will be given when court resumes at 9 Tuesday morning. 

After the Franklin County jury gets those instructions, they will hear closing arguments of 50 minutes each from District Attorney Tony Buckley and defense attorney Tracy Klein. 

The fate of Burroughs, 39, will then be in their hands. Their deliberation will likely start around lunchtime. If convicted of manslaughter in the death of 23-year-old girlfriend Katherine Sinclair, he could face up to 25 years in prison.

Sgt. Michael Reaves, who took the stand around mid-morning Friday, was the only witness on Monday, too, and he was questioned through mid-afternoon. Klein’s cross-examination of him got tense at times, but on redirect, Buckley got the veteran LPD investigator to explain some of the points the defense attorney questioned him about.

Klein began grilling Reaves again right after lunch. 

He asked about a phone that Lt. Shannon Caraway referred to in her report, saying she had removed it from the car. 

“I assumed she removed it from the car because that’s what it said in her report,” Reaves said.

But it turned out the report was wrong, he said. The phone with a black case that Sinclair used as an iPod had been removed. The phone in the green case was on the kitchen counter when Reaves walked in, he testified. That’s the one that she was receiving text messages on and doing Google searches on just before the fatal shot was fired into her head.

Klein also asked if he said anything about the kitchen sink being wet. Reaves said he didn’t. Klein then referred to body-cam video of Caraway saying there was no sign of water in sinks or showers “in this big-ass house,” then she says he “may have washed off in that water tank,” referring to a tank in the garage, or “that son-of-a-bitch may have went and jumped in that lake and washed off.”

Reaves and all of the officers on the scene testified that Burroughs should have had more blood on him if he had held a kitchen towel to her wounds and not washed off, as he said several times in his statements to police.

Reaves admitted that he put something wrong in one of his reports, too. He wrote that a “trace amount” of blood was on Burroughs’ right hand, but photos show it was on his left hand. 

“I’m human,” Reaves said.

Klein also asked why Reaves didn’t get fingerprints from Sinclair to send to the crime lab to compare to those on the gun’s clip. He only sent Burroughs’ prints for comparison, Klein said.

“I didn’t have hers,” Reaves said. “At that point, she’d been transported (to Forrest General).”

Klein said, “You went to the autopsy … supposedly to try to confirm suicide … but you didn’t get (prints) of Katherine Sinclair?”

Reaves responded, “No.”

Klein talked about the possible scenarios that Reaves was heard talking about on body-cam video at the initial response to the shooting. 

“What do you believe happened?” Klein asked.

Reaves said, “I believe he shot her, or we wouldn’t be here.”

Klein continued by asking if Reaves believed that the Google searches for Brooke Burroughs — the defendant’s ex-wife — had anything to do with her death.

“Yes,” Reaves said.

Klein asked the investigator if he believed that a text from Sinclair threatening to send embarrassing photos and video to his ex-wife had anything to do with her death.

Again, Reaves said he did.

Klein noted that his client responded by telling her to “go ahead, send it to her.”

Reaves said, “I think a Google search like that moments before someone suffers a gunshot wound to the head is significant.”

Klein then asked if a call to a mental health facility minutes before being shot is significant, too.

“It is,” he said.

Klein concluded by asking Reaves if he found “any physical facts to contradict Greg’s version she committed suicide.”

Reaves said, “No.”

On redirect, Buckley asked Reaves if there was any way to know why Sinclair was calling Pine Grove Mental Health. A voicemail had been left on her phone earlier that evening reminding her of an appointment she had with a social worker there the following Monday.

“She may have been trying to call back to confirm of cancel, right?” he asked.

Reaves said, “Could be.”

Buckley continued, “There was only one other witness, and she can’t speak, right?”

Reaves said, “She can’t.”

Buckley then asked about the green-cased phone, saying Caraway admitted the error in her report. He noted that the phone can be seen on the kitchen counter on police body-cam videos when they first walk in.

“Any explanation why he would be texting the phone on the counter if it was not in the car?” Buckley asked, referring to messages Burroughs sent to Sinclair telling her that she was tearing up his garage door. 

Buckley’s questioning also showed that Reaves opted for a ballistics test instead of getting fingerprints from it because “if not tested, conspiracy theorists would say this is not the gun.” 

Burroughs’ demeanor at the scene also raised some concerns among officers, including Reaves, and the fact that he only asked, “Is she still breathing?”

Buckley also tackled another point that Klein hammered on about how young officer Josh Freeman first believed that the entry wound was from left to right, and that raised suspicions.

“It could be inexperience,” Reaves said, “but he was in good company. The ER doctor at South Central and Forrest General got it wrong, too.”

Buckley referred to text messages from Burroughs to Sinclair that threatened to kill her and said he hoped she died, “and she was dead six days later.” He asked Reaves if that data was available during the early stages of the investigation.

“No,” he said. “We didn’t have some information until days, weeks, even months after our interview.”

Burroughs also told police that after seeing Sinclair shoot herself, he “ran in here and called y’all,” Buckley said. “He didn’t say that he stopped and called other people, did he?”

Reaves said he didn’t. Testimony and cellphone records showed that Burroughs called Kyle Robertson before dialing 911. Robertson is Burroughs’ friend, the city judge and Sinclair’s uncle.

Reaves also agreed that Sinclair showed no signs of depression in photos and texts from the previous day she and Burroughs spent together in Memphis or in video of them that night at The Loft and Murphy’s USA.

Buckley then brought up Burroughs’ statement about where Sinclair’s pants and undergarments were. Reaves said they were found the next day in the closet of the master bedroom when investigators executed a search warrant at Burroughs’ home. 

In his statements to police, he said he “believed” her clothes were in his truck, out in the driveway. He also told police she was upset at him because she wanted to go on a “country loop,” riding and drinking, then he said she was upset because she wanted to have sex in the driveway.

“Any good American male would notice if his girlfriend was undressed in the driveway, wouldn’t he?” Buckley asked.

Reaves said, “I would notice.”

Buckley then referred to the “awkward angle” Sinclair’s head was at when the fatal shot was fired. Klein said earlier that his client’s statement that “he couldn’t see her face” when the shot was fired is consistent with the evidence that her head was turned to the left when the bullet went through her skull, out the rear driver’s window and lodged in the garage door.

“It was consistent with someone turning away if someone was pointing a gun at their head, too, wasn’t it?” Buckley asked.

Reaves said, “Very.”

Klein then made a motion for a directed verdict — which is a routine procedure that’s rarely granted — on the basis that all of the state’s evidence is circumstantial. 

“There are no physical facts to contradict Greg Burroughs’ version of what happened,” Klein said.

Buckley argued that “the best eyewitness is deceased,” but the state has a “good, strong circumstantial case.” He said, “When you take the whole issue of circumstances, you can put them together and paint a picture of what happened that night.”

Williamson cited case law and laid out a list of factors from the case that were still in question.

“Physical facts contradict the version by Greg Burroughs, so this needs to be decided by a jury,” the judge said in denying the motion.

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(1) comment

Shannon Stewart

Kudos to Laurel Leader-Call informative and just exceptional reporting on this case.

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