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Jury acquits Milledgeville man of manslaughter

Stanley Alexander was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter in McNairy County Circuit Court Thursday.

He was charged in the death of John Burkhead on March 13, 2010 in Milledgeville. Burkhead died after a fight with Alexander.

Alexander was convicted of the lesser offense of aggravated assault.

Lead defense attorney Carthel Smith argued that Alexander should be acquitted  of all charges because he was acting in self defense.

Assistant District Attorney General Bob Gray argued for the prosecution that Alexander should be convicted of voluntary manslaughter because he used excessive force in the fight with Burkhead.

Gray told the jury that Alexander should have either have left the scene of the fight or should have only used sufficient force to be able to leave the scene of the fight.

Burkhead’s wife Jannice testified that he was 57, in very poor health and was drawing Social Security disability benefits.

Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Gilbert told the court that he had been called to the fight and found Burkhead lying in a ditch in the fetal position breathing with difficulty.

Jannice said she was called home from work and when she arrived an ambulance was there. John was transported to the hospital where he later died.

Burkhead’s nine-year-old grandson testified that he saw his grandfather  yelling across the field but couldn’t tell what he was saying.

The boy said he saw the two men fighting. Both hit and were hit by the other’s fists, but he didn’t see anyone get hit with a stick or a fencepost. He said that he heard Alexander tell Burkhead to “never come back here.”

Neighbor Debbie Jones testified that she saw Burkhead on top of Alexander hitting him with a piece of wood. Alexander was saying, “Stop. Stop. Stop,” she said.

Alexander testified in his own defense. He said that he had called 911 five days earlier because Burkhead was throwing tree limbs in a ditch on his property causing water to back up.

He said when he got home from work and went to his mother’s to feed her cat, Burkhead was standing near the ditch and yelled at him to come over there.

When he got to the ditch, Alexander testified that Burkhead said, “I dare you to call the law on me again.”

Alexander said that Burkhead cursed him and began to kick garbage bags.

“He absolutely tried to kill me. If it hadn’t been for the grace of God, I would be dead,” Alexander testified.

He said that Burkhead threw a fencepost in the ditch and said, “What are you going to do about it?”

Alexander said when he kneeled to remove the post from the ditch, Burkhead got on top of him and began hitting him.

“All I was trying to do was to get him off me,” Alexander told the jury.

The fight ended after both men became exhausted.

Alexander then testified that Burkhead told him, “‘I guess you know why I have to kill you now.” 

“Liar!” Shelia Swanson shouted from the audience. Judge J. Weber McCraw ordered her removed from the courtroom.

Alexander testified that he was told by Deputies James McNeil and Gilbert that it was a case of self defense.

He said he was only taken into custody after Burkhead died.

On cross examination, Alexander was asked several times by Gray if being cursed made him upset.

He replied, “It was just words.”

Gray also asked him repeatedly why he did not just leave the scene and call the Sheriff’s Department.

He gave various answers to this question including, “I did not have time” and that based on past history, he didn’t think it would do any good.

Chief Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Chancellor said that Burkhead died from blunt force trauma to the head but could not determine the cause.

McNeil said he could not determine who was the aggressor in the fight.

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