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Suspect in killing of Richmond Officer Burton considers ditching lawyers, faces death penalty

Lee also faces an attempted murder charge because witnesses say he also fired at a second officer at the time of the deadly shooting.

RICHMOND, Ind. — The man accused of shooting and killing Richmond Police Officer Seara Burton made his first court appearance on Wednesday. The state enhanced Phillip Lee’s charges after the officer’s death in September, and he now faces murder and the death penalty.

During the hearing, 13News learned Phillip Lee notified the court he wanted to represent himself but changed his mind during the hearing.

"I would like a speedy trial," Lee told the judge while shackled and wearing a red jumpsuit.

During the hour-long hearing, Lee answered questions. He also spoke to his attorney, scanned the courtroom and rocked in his chair.

Before the issue of representation took center stage, the state reiterated its plan to seek the death penalty. Phillip Lee is accused of shooting Officer Burton in the head in August during a traffic stop for the narcotics division. She died from her injuries five weeks later, on Sept. 18.

The state says it has grounds to seek the death penalty because the victim is a law enforcement officer and Lee was out on parole when the crime happened.

Lee also faces an attempted murder charge because witnesses say he also fired at another officer at the time of the deadly shooting.

The 47-year-old said “yes” when Judge April Drake asked Lee if he would like two court-appointed attorneys qualified to oversee a capital case. He accepted the new counsel despite notifying the court he wanted to represent himself.

"I'm just going to delay it until I speak to them,” Lee said. “I'm just going to delay it.”

Lee now has a total of three attorneys. His jury trial date was canceled because the two new lawyers need time to get caught up on the particulars of the case.

Seven people sat in the front row representing Officer Burton. Richmond police officers escorted the group of family and friends of the victim in and out of the courthouse. One woman in the group told 13News they did not want to comment after the hearing.

There is currently a gag order preventing police, attorneys and even family members from commenting on the case or the “character, credibility, reputation or criminal records” of Lee.


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