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Burmeister's Cold Exterior Cracks at Sentencing...

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FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — The cold, arrogantexterior of a formerparatrooper convicted of murdering two black people dissolved intotears Friday as his mother pleaded for his life during a sentencinghearing.

James N. Burmeister, 21, wept quietly at the defense table ashis mother, also sobbing at times, told jurors about the life ledby ``my baby Jim.''

Jurors convicted Burmeister, a former 82nd Airborne Divisionsoldier, on Thursday of murdering Jackie Burden, 27, and MichaelJames, 36, shortly after midnight on Dec. 7, 1995.

But Nancy James, Michael James' wife, said during a recess thatshe thought the Burmeister's tears were genuine.

Now, the jury hears evidence and arguments before deciding,probably next week, whether Burmeister should be executed orsentenced to life in prison without parole.

``I would just like to say to the families of Jackie andMichaelthat I am so sorry this ever happened,'' Kathleen Burmeister saidfrom the witness stand. ``I would do anything in my power to bringthem back. I apologize.''

Mrs. Burmeister sobbed as she made her final statement to thejury before leaving the witness stand. Her son, seated between twodefense lawyers, also wept and wiped his eyes with a whitehandkerchief.

During the guilt phase of the trial, Burmeister kept a cold andneutral expression on his face and occasionally smirked.

``I had sympathy with her yesterday, but today I felt like itwas for show,'' Mrs. James said. ``I do not think her statement wasgenuine. She had ample opportunity to come to me to apologize andshe did not. I was really hurt.''

Mrs. James has three children whom she said are upset that``their father was taken.''

Defense attorneys argued before the testimony that Burmeisterdeserved to die because he hunted down the victims and shot themfor no reason other than racial hatred. Testimony showed thatBurmeister was a self-professed skinhead extremist who listened toracist songs and gave Nazi salutes in the Fort Bragg barracks.

Mrs. Burmeister said her son loved his father, Jim BurmeisterSr. But the father was not liked in Thompson, Pa., a town of 200north of Scranton, Pa. When her daughter, Lisa, was dying ofleukemia, she said, the local rescue squad wouldn't come to thehouse because of hard feelings with the family.

After the death, she testified, Burmeister was upset and thesame year joined the Army, where he joined a group of skinheadsafter he was disqualified for jump duty in the 82nd because of anear injury.

She said her husband was opinionated and outspoken andexpressedracial and ethnic prejudice, but that he didn't hate minorities.

``He used the n-word'' in front of Burmeister and his adoptedbrother and two sisters, she said.

Judge Coy Brewer Jr. told jurors that the sentencing phase ofthe trial would last into next week and that after they heardarguments and evidence they would have to decide the sentence.

In North Carolina, executions are carried out by lethal gasunless the condemned prisoner selects lethal injection.

Prosecutors presented no evidence.

By ESTES THOMPSON,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

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