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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Brad Location: Frankfort on Dec 23, 2007 at 08:25 AM
    To all you cry babies: Try doing the job of a police officer then you would have the right to talk. It is sad that this man died and I feel for his family but because a person is handcuffed does not mean that he/she can not whip your butt! There is one incident here that happened recently where a prisoner was cuffed and whipped two officers...one was off for 2 weeks and the other for a month due to the injuries that they sustained. Both were grown men and the arrestee was cuffed. Unless you have done the job then you have no right to talk! Most of you that do have had several run ins with the police and just have a general dislike for them anyhow.
  • by Chris Location: Lex on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:27 AM
    Guess what guys and gals.....found NOT GUILTY!!! Justice has prevailed!!
  • by troy Location: lexington ky on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:15 AM
    justice was not served, but is it ever served when the state police are involved. just look at this state trooper he even fits the part. i hope he is proud of all the sorrow he has caused this poor family.
  • by landis tucker Location: lexington ky on Dec 6, 2007 at 11:09 AM
    We live in a sad world when a man is beaten to death by a law enforcer and he walks away a free man.
  • by Kevin Location: KY on Dec 6, 2007 at 10:04 AM
    Mike, Mr, Phillips was charged with DUI, not convicted. Many people are charged with crimes they did not committ. Did You see him driving drunk. You are taking the word of the trooper who killed a man he was sworn to protect. I hope this is not the type of training trooper Burton recieved. Even if MR. Phillips was drunk, beating him after he was in jail was a crime and a disgrace. Video doesnt lie. 1 to 5 years if convicted is a joke. Anyone who is sworn to uphold the law and breaks the law, should recieve double the sentence as that of a common criminal.
  • by wth Location: richmond on Dec 6, 2007 at 08:35 AM
    @ mike Are you blind or just dumb? Training doenst mean you do what your trained to do it just means you know how to do it. Kicking an inmate thats cuffed is not training anywhere in the US unless you count guantanimo bay. Maybe well all get lucky and your family will be executed in a bothced drug raid because you talke dto teh wrong person. Seems you like that type of justice.
  • by noname Location: central ky on Dec 5, 2007 at 01:22 PM
    the trooper was only doing his job. they protect us every day and night, but when they have to protect themselves everyone is aganist them. The trooper didn't do anything wrong, only what he was trained to do when someone attempts to hurt him.
  • by Cindy Location: Somerset on Dec 5, 2007 at 09:33 AM
    This is common practice in Kentucky. The cops think its funny to beat up people, handcuffed or not. Looks like it caught up on one of you.
  • by MIke on Dec 5, 2007 at 09:22 AM
    This man was charged with DUI. Okay had Trooper Burton not arrested him and he had hit and killed another motorist would this have received the same amount of attention? NO it would not. Mr. Phillips is dead and that is sad no matter what caused it but the fact is if Mr. Phillips had not been drinking and driving which is against the law no matter what then he would still be alive and Trooper Burton would still be doing the job for which he was trained.
  • by JFB Location: South Central on Dec 4, 2007 at 04:31 PM
    19 bruises. Give me a break. Looks like the Trooper got a little carried away and things went bad.

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