A Richmond County Superior Court jury found Reco Hurley, 33, not guilty in the death of George Burnett, 50.
The jury was left with a murky picture of what happened between Hurley and Burnett on Jan. 2, 2011. There were no eyewitnesses nor any physical evidence to link Hurley to Burnett’s fatal head injury. Only Hurley’s statement to a sheriff’s investigator implicated him, and Hurley testified this week that Burnett’s injury was unintentional.
Burnett was found bleeding and unconscious that night outside a Cleveland Street boarding house. He remained in a vegetative state until he died Dec. 14.
Hurley admitted to the jury that he sold drugs. He said Burnett fell and hit his head after they fought over cocaine.
After the verdict was announced Thursday, Judge J. David Roper said that in the 18 months he has been presiding over criminal cases, he hasn’t had a single trial or sentencing of any significant drug dealer or of anyone caught with a large amount of drugs. The judge called on law enforcement officials to focus on the big dealers.
Hurley was sentenced in April 2011 to serve five years in prison for possession of cocaine, and he will finish the sentence unless he is paroled. Hurley also had two previous cocaine convictions and convictions for terroristic threats and escape.