Testimony Begins In KSP Trooper On Trial In Suspect's Death

Trooper BJ Burton’s defense is that he was trying to protect himself from a verbally abusive and combative DUI suspect, Billy Phillips at the Adair County Jail. But prosecutors say the trooper's conduct was way out of line.

Special Prosecutor Eddy Montgomery says Trooper BJ Burton assaulted Billy Phillips while entering the jail's sally port. However, the trooper's defense is that he was just trying to protect himself when Phillips wasn't compliant to his commands. He was mouthing off and then lunged at him.

Several dispatchers at the jail testified of seeing the exchange between Burton and Phillips on video monitors. John Conover said Burton kicked Phillips as he was staggering back.

The testimony is before a packed courtroom. On one side, Burton's family and supporters; on the other, Billy Phillips' family and friends, who had a difficult time hearing Phillip's wife, Jalain testify of seeing her husband's bruised and battered body at UK Hospital.

Prosecutors says Billy Phillips had 19 bruises on his body, but the defense claims some of them were caused by medical personnel trying to get stimulus from Phillips' unconscious body.

AP Story

LIBERTY, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky State Police trooper charged with reckless homicide in the death of a man he arrested went on trial this week in central Kentucky.

Prosecutors say Trooper B.J. Burton lost his temper and struck a handcuffed man, causing him to hit his head on the floor and die.

Burton's attorney says the trooper was only defending himself in the altercation in June. Burton, who has been a trooper for three years, is on administrative leave with pay.

The trial, which began with jury selection Monday, was moved from Adair County to neighboring Casey County.

Burton, 35, arrested Billy G. Phillips on June 1 on a charge of drunken driving. State police reports said Phillips, whose hands were cuffed in front of his body, lunged at Burton several times after arriving at the Adair County Jail.

State police said Burton hit Phillips, who fell against a wall or floor and hit his head.

Phillips, 53, a self-employed painter, died of blunt impact to the head two days later at University of Kentucky Hospital, according to a coroner's report.

Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery told jurors during opening arguments Tuesday that Burton didn't intend to kill Phillips, but his conduct amounted to homicide.

"We know he lost his temper. We know he hit him more than once," Montgomery said.

Burton's attorney, Steve Schroering, said Phillips was drunk and unruly and confronted the trooper. Burton only struck Phillips after he lunged at the trooper, Schroering said.

Adair County 911 dispatcher John Conover testified Tuesday that he watched the confrontation on a video monitor and saw Burton first hit Phillips with an elbow and then kick him. Conover said Burton hit Phillips near his right eye.

Montgomery told jurors that Phillips had 19 bruises, though witnesses indicated at least some of those could have been caused by first-aid and treatment efforts.

Schroering said Burton had treated Phillips professionally before the altercation, which lasted only a few seconds, and did not use more force than necessary to defend himself.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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