PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The attorney for a man sentenced to 60 years in prison for attempting to hire an inmate to kill his family is calling his client's suicide attempt "the equivalent of an execution."
Michael Crosby represents Averal "Junior" Burnett, who was sentenced Friday after being found guilty of two counts of attempted murder in December.
After sentencing, Burnett was transported in a Pearl River County Sheriff's patrol car to the Central Mississippi Regional Correctional Facility.
Authorities say officers exited the vehicle to check their weapons, and when they returned, they found Burnett slumped over with blood on his body. Authorities say it appears Burnett attempted to slash his own throat with a razorblade.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections contacted medical personnel, and Burnett was taken to a Jackson area hospital for treatment.
Crosby claims officers berated and demoralized his client while transporting him to the jail. He said he believes they then intentionally left Burnett unattended so that he would take his own life.
Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison tells us that's not the case. He says deputies followed every procedure.
In fact, he says extra precautions were taken to ensure Burnett's safe transport to the correctional facility after threats were made against him. That included an additional Pearl River County Sheriff's patrol car and a Mississippi Highway Patrol vehicle escorting the unit transporting Burnett to the jail.
Allison tells us Burnett was strip-searched twice to ensure he didn't have any weapons and was even given a new prison jumpsuit. Officials say it's still unclear how Burnett got his hands on a razor blade, but they are investigating that.
Burnett is a former Lamar County Sheriff's deputy. Officials say while he was being held in Pearl River County for sexual battery charges, he offered to pay inmate Russell Still to kill his wife and her daughter.
Still refused and reported Burnett to Police. A jury found Burnett guilty of two counts of attempted capital murder in December of 2014.