Smiths Station man on death row asks judge to reconsider his penalty


Courtney Lockhart convicted for the death of Auburn University student, Georgia native Lauren Burk

LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) – Attorneys for a Smiths Station man on death row are inside a courtroom asking a judge to reconsider the convicted killer’s penalty.

Courtney Lockhart is the man authorities say shot and killed 18-year-old Auburn University student Lauren Burk back in 2008.

For the first time in several years, a packed courtroom watched Courtney Lockhart emerge inside the same Lee County courtroom where Lockhart was found guilty of murdering Auburn University student and Georgia native Lauren Burk.

A jury unanimously sentenced Lockhart to life without parole, but Judge Jacob Walker used his judicial override to sentence Lockhart to the death penalty. Lauren’s father, Jim Burk, hopes Judge Walker will stick to death sentence.

“I feel very confident we are going to get the result we are hoping for,” said Burk. “I’ve just been stressed for the last several weeks I’ll be glad when we can get this behind us.”

Defense attorney Aaron Katz opened by saying the Iraq War veteran’s prior defense team was incompetent, so his death sentence should be overturned.

The defense team introduced new evidence to the case, saying Lockhart was prescribed two medications for depression at the time of the murder and he was not taking the medication.

Katz also says Judge Walker should consider what Lockhart went through while in Iraq and when he returned.

Attorneys with the state believe Lockhart had a troubled past before Burk’s murder, citing Lockhart’s bad conduct discharge from the military and saying he allegedly threatened a female officer during his service.

The evidentiary hearing will pick back up tomorrow morning. There’s no word on when a decision will be made by Judge Walker.