Kevin Burns was sentenced to death by the State of Tennessee for the murders of two people. According to court documents the two victims, Damond Dawson and Tracey Johnson, were sitting in a car with two others when Kevin Burns and another man approached them. Kevin Burns would demand the group hand over money and jewelry. Other men came out from behind the bushes and the car was surrounded. Kevin Burns would open fire killing the two victims. Kevin Burns was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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On April 20, 1992, four young men, Damond Dawson, Tracey Johnson, Eric Thomas, and Tommie Blackman, were sitting in a car in Dawson’s driveway in Memphis. Dawson was in the driver’s seat, Johnson was in the front passenger seat, Thomas was in the back seat behind Dawson, and Blackman was in the back seat behind Johnson.
The defendant, Kevin Burns, and Carlito Adams, who knew Blackman, walked up to the passenger side of the car. Adams pulled out a handgun and told Blackman to get out of the car. When Blackman refused, Burns pulled out a handgun and went around to the driver’s side of the car. Blackman got out of the car and fled. Adams said “get him,” and three or four more men appeared from behind hedges and fired at Blackman.
Eric Jones, age fourteen, was playing basketball at Dawson’s house with three friends. Jones saw the men in the car removing jewelry and pulling money from their pockets. Seconds later, Jones saw Blackman running toward him. Amidst gunshots, Jones and Blackman escaped to the back of the house; Jones’ three friends ran to an adjacent yard. Once inside the house, Jones heard seven or eight more gunshots.
Mary Jones, Eric Jones’ mother, lived across the street from the Dawsons. She saw Adams shoot Johnson once in the chest. She saw Kevin Burns shoot Dawson several times, walk to the front of the car, and then shoot Dawson again. Ms. Jones unequivocally identified Burns and stated that she got “a real good look in his face” as he ran toward her after the shootings.
Tracey Johnson died at the scene. Damond Dawson, who suffered five gunshots to his arm, buttocks, chest, and hip was alive when police arrived but died after being transported to the hospital. Eric Thomas, who sustained gunshots to his chest and stomach, survived and made a photo identification of Kevin Burns two days after the incident. Thomas testified that Burns and the others had “opened fire” after robbing him and his friends of their jewelry and money. Thomas said that he initially told police he had been shot by Adams, but explained that he believed he was going to die and gave police the only name he knew, which was Adams.
On June 23, 1992, Burns was found in Chicago and arrested. After being advised of his rights and signing a waiver, the defendant gave a statement in which he admitted his role in the killings. He said that he had received a telephone call from Kevin Shaw, who told him that four men had “jumped” Shaw’s cousin. Burns, Shaw, and four others intended to fight the four men, and Shaw gave Burns a .32 caliber handgun. As the others approached a car with four men sitting in it, Burns stayed behind. He heard a shot, saw a man running across the yard, and fired three shots. He then left the scene with the other men.
After the guilt phase of the trial, the jury deliberated and returned verdicts of guilty for two counts of felony murder and two counts of attempted felony murder. The trial moved into the penalty phase of the proceedings for the jury to determine the punishment for each of the felony murder convictions.