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Convicted Killer Refuses

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James Burmeister
WILMINGTON (AP) — The former soldier convicted killingtwo blackpeople refused to testify Tuesday during the trial of anotherex-paratrooper charged in the same crimes.

James Burmeister, 21, appeared briefly at the trial of MalcolmWright, 22. Both were charged with first-degree murder in the Dec.7, 1995, shooting death of Jackie Burden and Michael James inFayetteville.

When questioned by Superior Court Judge Coy Brewer Jr., Burmeister tookthe Fifth Amendment.

Attorneys said Burmeister probably refused to testify because ofpending appeals of his own case.

``Did Malcolm Wright give you the pistol back and say `I can'tdo it,''' Burmeister was asked. He refused to answer that and otherquestions, except his name and other basics.

Burmeister, who testfied outside the jury's presence, then wasexcused as a witness. Burmeister, who was convicted last month, wassentenced to life in prison.

Earlier, former soldier Randy Meadows testified about event thedate of the killing. Jurors were sent home before Burmeister tookthe stand.

Brewer ruled that Meadows could testify about a spiderwebtattooon Wright's left arm and that it meant the wearer had killed ablack person. Brewer said he would not force Wright to display thetattoo as he did to the jury that convicted Burmeister.

``This evidence deals with the specific issue upon which thiscase turns, which is Malcolm Wright's knowledge of the intent ofJames Burmeister at the moment of the beginning of thetransaction,'' Brewer said.

Defense lawyers for Wright, who has pleaded innocent, hadarguedthat the testimony was prejudicial.

Prosecutors said the only reason Burden and James were killedasthey walked along a dim street was because they were black.

Meadows, who said he drove the car for Burmeister and Wright,agreed to help prosecutors.

Defense attorney Paul Herzog said testimony about the tattoowas``the most explosive testimony in this case. We are simply lefthere with the impression that this man committed another murder.There can't be anything more prejudicial in a murder case.''

District Attorney Ed Grannis said the testimony was critical.

``It is a ritual a part of the skinhead culture,'' Grannis said.``It is the very heart of the whole proceedings.''

Meadows also testified that Burmeister tucked a pistol in hisbelt as he got out of the car and remarked that he might earn histattoo that night.

A murder was part of an initiation rite for Burmeister, who hada lower rank in the skinhead organization at Fort Bragg, Meadowstestified.

Wright told him to drive on side streets near downtownFayetteville because they were looking for places that were dimlylit in predominantly black areas, Meadows said.

When Burden and James were spotted, ``Malcolm Wright told me topull up to the end of the street and turn left,'' Meadows saidduring testimony before the jury.

A few minutes after Burmeister and Wright got out of the car,Meadows said, he heard three gunshots. Nobody returned to the car,so he left alone.

WRAL-TV5'sTerri GrucasaidWright'sparents and family members of the victims embraced and talked outside thecourtroom Tuesday. The elder Wright said he neither shared nor understoodhis son's beliefs.

--From Staff and Wire Reports

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