By MYRA THRIFT Staff Writer
Burke was on trial for murder in the May 2016 shooting death of her husband, Jimmie Burke, at their home on Bay Street.
Judge Dwayne Gillis at 3:50 p.m. called for the jury to be brought in and cautioned the audience in the room to restrain their emotions upon hearing the verdict.
A short, mild reaction followed the announcement of the not guilty verdict. One woman seated among Sonia Burke’s family group said, “Praise Jesus!” as defense attorney Roy Copeland patted the defendant on the back. One of Burke’s sister rose to her feet silently weeping.
Ware County Clerk of Court Melba Fiveash read the jury verdict in the open courtroom.
“On the count of malice murder, not guilty. On the count of felony murder, not guilty. On the count of aggravated assault, not guilty. On the count of possession of a firearm, not guilty,” Fiveash read.
“Is this verdict unanimous?” Gillis asked.
The jury answered that it was unanimous.
Gillis then dismissed the jury and asked if there was anything more from either attorney and they answered “no.”
Sonia Burke never contested the fact that she shot Jimmie Burke four times but claimed it was in self-defense.
The prosecution had sought a malice murder conviction.
The jury deliberated for nearly six consecutive hours Thursday before recessing at nearly 9:30 Thursday night. They were back at it again as of 9 o’clock Friday morning. Following a lunch break, deliberations resumed at 1:30 p.m.
On Friday morning the jury continued to file requests, asking the court at one point for a dictionary and at another time sending word to the judge to see if there was any “additional evidence available.” Gillis denied the request for a dictionary. As to the request for more evidence, he replied that all of the evidence was presented at trial.
The jury also asked for a certain point of clarification that was not made public in the courtroom. After sidebar discussion among the judge, Assistant District Attorney Charles Watkins and defense attorney Copeland, Gillis called for the jury and instructed them to continue their deliberations, noting that “virgorous debate should not cause you to retreat from your solemn duty.”
The trial jury was chosen Monday followed by four days of testimony and deliberation.