Rayford Burkes was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for killing a man who testified against him. According to court documents Rayford Burkes was charged with the murder of a police officer however he was acquitted of all charges. Three months later Rayford Burkes would murder Timothy Morrison who was a State witness against him during the trial. Rayford Burkes would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Rayford Burkes 2021 Information
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On 23 January 1992, Jesse Wilson was at his home in his kitchen with Freddie Teasley, Timothy Morrison (the victim), and Jimmy Knox. In the early afternoon, Wilson had consumed a pint of Wild Irish Rose wine, but no controlled substances. Morrison gave Teasley some money, and Teasley went to the liquor store and purchased a bottle of gin. When Teasley returned shortly thereafter with the bottle of gin, defendant and Robert Lee Griffin arrived at Wilson’s house. Morrison, Knox, and Teasley were sitting at the table in the kitchen. Wilson went to the door and allowed defendant and Griffin to enter the house. Wilson had known defendant for several years, and defendant had been to Wilson’s house on prior occasions. Neither defendant nor Griffin announced the purpose of their visit.
After Rayford Burkes entered the house, he proceeded to the kitchen, and when he asked for a drink of the gin, Morrison invited him to “go ahead and get you a drink.” According to Wilson, defendant drank “about half” of the bottle of gin. Rayford Burkes then told Morrison that he wanted to talk to him; and, at Wilson’s suggestion, defendant and Morrison stepped into an adjoining bedroom. After defendant and Morrison left the kitchen area, Wilson “heard a ruckus,” which he described as “some bumping around.” Wilson hollered that he “wasn’t going to have it in [his] house.” When defendant and Morrison came out of the bedroom, defendant said, “I am going to tell all you son-of-a-bitches something.” After Rayford Burkes entered the house, he proceeded to the kitchen, and when he asked for a drink of the gin, Morrison invited him to “go ahead and get you a drink.” According to Wilson, defendant drank “about half” of the bottle of gin. Rayford Burkes then told Morrison that he wanted to talk to him; and, at Wilson’s suggestion, defendant and Morrison stepped into an adjoining bedroom. After defendant and Morrison left the kitchen area, Wilson “heard a ruckus,” which he described as “some bumping around.” Wilson hollered that he “wasn’t going to have it in [his] house.” When defendant and Morrison came out of the bedroom, defendant said, “I am going to tell all you son-of-a-bitches something.” Defendant pointed at Morrison and said, “That man testified against me. He know [sic] I didn’t kill that man at the Busy Bee.” Defendant then left the house for “a minute or so.” Morrison sat down at the kitchen table and said, “[E]verything is all right.” Wilson asked Griffin to talk to defendant, and Griffin then exited the house through the front door.pointed at Morrison and said, “That man testified against me. He know [sic] I didn’t kill that man at the Busy Bee.” Defendant then left the house for “a minute or so.” Morrison sat down at the kitchen table and said, “[E]verything is all right.” Wilson asked Griffin to talk to defendant, and Griffin then exited the house through the front door.
Shortly thereafter, Rayford Burkes reentered the house and walked “straight through” to where Morrison was still seated at the kitchen table. According to Wilson, defendant said that if Morrison denied having testified against him in a previous trial, defendant would “knock his head off.” Morrison did not respond and did not say or do anything to provoke defendant. Defendant then hit Morrison, and Morrison got up from his seat. Defendant and Morrison started scuffling, and Wilson again admonished them that he “wasn’t going to have it in [his] house.” Wilson got between defendant and Morrison and separated them in order to stop the scuffle.
Morrison again sat down at the kitchen table. As Wilson was pushing against defendant with his shoulder, trying to get him to leave the house, defendant angrily told Morrison that “he wasn’t no good” and that Morrison should not have been a witness against him in the earlier murder case. Wilson saw defendant “jiggling” and reaching in his pocket “to get something out,” but Wilson could not determine whether the pocket was a pants pocket or a coat pocket. Wilson then heard three gunshots in rapid succession coming from “right over [the] top of [his] head.” Wilson testified that he did not see defendant or anyone else in the house with a handgun. According to Wilson, at the time of the gunshots, defendant was facing the *905 kitchen, and Morrison was seated at the kitchen table.
Following the gunshots, defendant exited through the front door. Wilson went to the front door and observed defendant leave in a “little blue car” being driven by a black female. Wilson then turned around to see if anyone had been struck by the bullets. He heard something fall in the kitchen and ran to the kitchen where he saw that Morrison had been shot. Teasley was standing at the entrance to the kitchen, and Knox was still in the kitchen. Morrison was lying on the kitchen floor on his side and had a small bloodstain on his shirt. Wilson touched Morrison’s arm to feel for a pulse, but detected none. Wilson could not determine whether Morrison was breathing. He saw what appeared to be blood flowing from Morrison’s mouth. Since Wilson did not have a telephone at his house, he then went outside and directed his neighbors to call for an ambulance. The emergency medical personnel and police arrived, and Wilson informed the police that defendant had shot Morrison.
The State also presented evidence at trial tending to show that defendant had threatened Morrison on several occasions prior to the shooting and that defendant’s brothers had made an intimidating visit to Morrison’s home in Lexington, North Carolina. The State further presented evidence that, because of these threats, Morrison was afraid of defendant and wanted to avoid him.
Defendant also presented evidence at trial. Defendant testified that he did not see Morrison in Wilson’s house on the day of the shooting. However, defendant testified that he did see Jimmy Knox and Johnny Elwood Pless seated in the kitchen with “crack pipes going.” According to defendant, he was at the front door when he heard gunshots. Defendant testified that he collided with Wilson as Wilson was trying to enter the front door while defendant was trying to exit. According to defendant, after he exited Wilson’s house, he ran to Juanita Keaton’s car and left with her. When Keaton asked him what had happened, he responded, “Some crazy m____ f____ in there [was] shooting. Let’s get the hell away from here.” Defendant denied that he had threatened Morrison after his acquittal for the murder of Calvin Royal at the Busy Bee Lounge. Defendant also denied asking his brothers to threaten Morrison and insisted that his brothers “wouldn’t do anything like that.” According to defendant, he had contacted some of the persons who testified against him in the trial for the murder of Calvin Royal and had asked them to testify in support of his civil rights lawsuit.
At trial, defendant also presented the testimony of three witnesses which tended to show that he was not the perpetrator of the crime charged. Dorothea Peggy Ramseur, a witness for the State in the previous trial for the murder of Calvin Royal, testified that, after defendant was acquitted, she encountered defendant at a liquor house. She further testified that defendant did not threaten her and that she even left the liquor house with him. Ramseur also testified that she went to Wilson’s house after Morrison was shot, and Wilson told her that he did not know what had happened during the shooting, that he was outside, and that the shooting was over when he reentered the house. Ramseur was in prison at the time she testified in the instant case.
J.D. Sturgis, Jr., testified at trial that he routinely visited Wilson’s house to sell or use drugs. After the Morrison shooting at Wilson’s house, Sturgis asked Wilson what happened. Wilson told Sturgis that he did not know what happened because everyone ran when the shooting occurred.
Johnny Elwood Pless testified that, on 23 January 1992, he was walking toward Wilson’s house to look for his nephew, Keith Neils, when he heard three gunshots and saw several people run out of Wilson’s house. According to Pless, defendant and Wilson were “about right at the door” when the second and third shots were fired.