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Judge issues gag order in case against accused killer of Seara Burton, preventing public commentary

Seara Burton
Posted at 10:12 AM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 10:13:30-04

RICHMOND — The judge overseeing the case against Phillip Lee, the man accused of fatally shooting Richmond Officer Seara Burton, has signed a gag order preventing people involved in the case from discussing it publicly.

Wayne Circuit Court Judge April Drake signed the order due to ensure the jury that will decide whether to convict Lee remains impartial.

The gag order applies not only to the parties to the case, but to law enforcement officials, court personnel, the Wayne County Coroner, and Burton's family members.

"Lawyers involved in the investigation or litigation of this case, or any case arising out of the same or similar facts, shall not make any extra-judicial statements that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably Should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a trial in this case," the order states.

According to the order, those involved in the case are specficially prohibited from discussing the following:

  • The character, credibility, reputation or criminal records of the defendant, other suspects or witnesses or the expected testimony of the defendant or a witness
  • The possibility of a plea of guilty or the existence or contents of any confession, admission or statement given by the defendant or another suspect or that person’s refusal or failure to make a statement
  • The performance or results of any examination or test or the refusal or failure of a person to submit to an examination or test or the identity or nature of physical evidence expected to be presented
  • Any opinion as. to the guilt or innocence of the defendant or other suspect;
  • Information that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be inadmissible as evidence in a trial
  • The facts that the defendant has been charged with a crime unless accompanied by a statement that the charge is merely an accusation

The Associated Press reported that Wayne County Prosecutor Wayne Shipman has requested the death penalty for Lee.
Shipman has also requested that Lee be held without bond. The judge had previously had set a $1.5 million bond for Lee, the AP reports.

Shipman’s filing indicates that two aggravating circumstances would justify the death sentence: that Lee intentionally killed Burton while she was acting in the course of her duty and that the killing occurred while Lee was free on parole after being convicted of possession of a syringe and possession of a narcotic drug, the AP reports.

Richmond police have said that Lee shot Burton and attempted to shoot two other officers during a traffic stop on Aug. 10.

Burton was placed on life support after the shooting. She was removed on Sept. 1 and then moved to a hospice facility, where she died, according to Richmond Police.

WRTV Investigates learned that Lee has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1994 and has served 20 years in state prison. He had just been released from prison on December 31, 2021 after serving 3.5 years in state prison on drug offenses.

Lee is charged with the following felonies stemming from the Aug. 10 encounter:

  • Attempted murder — three counts
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon
  • Possession of methamphetamine
  • Possession of cocaine
  • Possession of a narcotic drug

Lee is scheduled to appear before a jury on Dec. 27.