Junior Burnett granted change of venue for sexual battery trial

Junior Burnett granted change of venue for sexual battery trial
Junior Burnett was indicted in August 2014 on a seven count idictment. His trial has been moved to a new venue. Source: WDAM

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A former Pine Belt lawman convicted of attempted capital murder will now have a new venue for his sexual battery trial.

Averal "Junior" Burnett, 50, was indicted in August 2014 on a seven count indictment, including four counts of fondling, two counts of sexual battery and attempted sexual battery of a female under the age of 18.

A motion for a change of venue was granted Wednesday morning according to 15th Circuit Court District Attorney Hal Kittrell.

The trial has been moved to Rankin County, and the date has been pushed back one day, to Jan. 24, 2017.

"We are ready to go and we are ready to move forward with the case at this time," Kittrell said. "We already have 60 years on him for the attempted capital murder charges, and we are ready to put more years on him to be sure he never sees the light of day again."

Burnett was convicted of two counts of attempted capital murder in December 2014, and sentenced to 60 years in prison. After that sentencing, Burnett attempted to commit suicide while being transported to a Mississippi Department of Corrections Facility.

With the suicide attempt, that prompted a physiological evaluation, and the 15th Circuit Court District Attorney's Office waited over a year for the results.

In June 2016, he was deemed mentally competent to stand trial for the sexual battery charges and a trial date was set for Jan. 23, 2017.

Burnett served the majority of his 22 years in law enforcement with the Hattiesburg Police Department and officially retired from the Lamar County Sheriff's Department on May 16, 2014.

Over the years, Burnett has received several areas of training, including patrol, S.W.A.T., chemical weapons, firearms, undercover work, as well as K-9 training.

"I will say that this is a priority item for us as you can appreciate, both with the original charge to go with what happened down in Pearl River County. I said it in earlier reports and I'm saying it now, he's a dangerous man, and we now have him gone for 60 years for the attempted capital murder," Kittrell said in a previous interview. "We've got him tucked away where he needs to be, he doesn't need to be among us, but we are still going forward with the other charges, the victims need this for justice."

Additional motions from defense and prosecution will be heard Oct. 24 in Lamar County.