Motel murderer faces Wednesday execution

By Errol Castens / Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

Joseph Burns was one of three people convicted in the beating and stabbing death of Floyd McBride in Tupelo.

Joseph Daniel “Jo Jo” Burns, will die of lethal injection shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday if the state of Mississippi has its way.
Burns was convicted of the Nov. 10, 1994, murder of Floyd Melvin “Mike” McBride in the manager’s residence of the Town House Motel in Tupelo. McBride had befriended Burns and was giving him and his accomplice, Phillip Hale, free accommodations at the motel.
According to Hale’s testimony, when McBride asked the two if they wanted to help count several thousand dollars of the motel’s money, Burns and Hale agreed, then decided to rob McBride.
McBride was beaten and stabbed to death; the motel’s money box was pried open and its contents emptied.
Hale said he and Burns agreed that Hale would hit McBride, and Burns would take the money. Hale testified that he knocked McBride down and left the room to make sure nobody was coming.
When he returned to the room, Hale said, Burns was stabbing McBride in the back of the neck with a knife, a fork, and a screwdriver. When Hale challenged Burns, Burns stabbed Hale in the foot.
Hale testified that after the stabbing they both wiped fingerprints, took some $3,000 and fled.
Authorities were stymied in solving the crime until an anonymous caller several months later implicated Burns, Hale and Hale’s brother Jeff.
Jeff Hale, whose truck Phillip Hale was driving around the time of the murder, testified that Burns and Phillip had discussed the murder with him several days later. He stated in court that Burns told him that he had killed McBride because he did not want to leave any witnesses. Both Hale brothers and Burns reportedly used the cash to gamble in Tunica County.
A Lee County jury convicted Burns and voted for the death sentence in September 1996. Circuit Judge Frank Russell, who presided over the trial, agreed.
In nearly 14 years since, Burns has lost a series of appeals sought on a variety of grounds. On July 15 the Mississippi State Supreme Court denied a motion to have a psychological evaluation – a review that his attorney said was key to a clemency petition.
Gov. Haley Barbour has a history of denying clemency to death row inmates. Since he was elected, six prisoners have been executed, including two earlier this year.
Phillip Hale received a life sentence in 1997 for his part in the crime. He was paroled in December 2008.