‘Too drunk to kill’ defense splits small town jury

By Mike Hixenbaugh
Rocky Mount Telegram

TARBORO

An Edgecombe County jury could not reach agreement Thursday in the trial of the man accused in the 2008 shooting death of Clifton Jackson, resulting in a mistrial.

Following more than 10 hours of deliberation spanning two days, the 12-person jury told N.C. Superior Court Judge Cy Grant it was in hopeless deadlock, split 10-2, regarding first-degree murder charges against Bobby Ray Bordeaux.

The hung jury was released late Thursday afternoon.

Bordeaux, accused of shooting Jackson, 44, and another man outside the Hogs Pen Pub in Macclesfield in the early minutes of Aug. 31, 2008, will have to wait at least another two months to learn his fate. A new trial was scheduled for Dec. 7.

The jury did find Bordeaux, 38, guilty of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury for shooting 50-year-old John Warlick the night of the murder. The state had been seeking a more serious charge in that incident, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Grant sentenced Bordeaux to between two and three years in prison, the maximum punishment for the assault charge. Warlick declined to comment following the partial verdict.

Members of Jackson’s family expressed disappointment with the hung jury, but also declined to comment on the record outside the Edgecombe County courthouse, where they had spent the past four days listening to testimony and waiting for a verdict.

At question before the 12 jurors was not if Bordeaux fired the shot that killed Jackson – even Bordeaux admits he’s probably did it – but rather if the defendant was of sound enough mental condition at the time of the incident to form an intent to kill.

Bordeaux told jurors he was so drunk the night of the shooting he didn’t remember pulling the trigger, let alone why he did it. Defense Attorney David Braswell argued during the course of the trial that his client’s intoxication and recollection of the evening are proof he had no premeditated intention of killing Jackson, therefore he’s not guilty of first-degree murder, which implies intent.

Witness testimony Monday and Tuesday constructed a fairly consistent narrative of the night and the events that led to the shooting. Jackson and Bobby’s brother, Eddie Bordeaux, were involved in a brief scuffle in the parking lot, drawing many of the bar’s patrons outside.

Although a few witnesses called by the defense during the trial, which started Monday, said the fight was more intense, without dispute, all the witnesses said the altercation had been resolved when Bobby Ray Bordeaux came from behind a car, held a pistol to the back of Jackson’s head and pulled the trigger.

Bobby Ray Bordeaux shot Warlick a moment later after Warlick swung a few punches at him.

Bobby Ray Bordeaux took the stand Tuesday and told jurors that, although he doesn’t remember shooting Jackson or Warlick, he’s convinced he did it after hearing the testimony of nearly a dozen eyewitnesses, including his wife.

Jurors had the option to find Bobby Ray Bordeaux guilty of second-degree murder, but Braswell argued his client isn’t even guilty of that charge, which requires the state to prove the defendant committed the crime with malice or ill will. Braswell petitioned during the trial to add the charge of involuntary manslaughter to the jury’s verdict sheet, but Grant denied the motion.

Assistant District Attorney Steve Graham dismissed Braswell’s arguments. He challenged Bobby Ray Bordeaux’s claim that he couldn’t remember the shooting, and called the 38-year-old mechanic a “cold-blooded killer” during his closing remarks.

Being drunk and depressed is not a defense for murder, Graham said.

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