Polk sheriff fed up with 'legal games' in 33 year old murder of - WFLA News Channel 8

Polk sheriff fed up with 'legal games' in 33 year old murder of deputy

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Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd discusses the murder of Deputy T.A. Burnham 33 years ago. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd discusses the murder of Deputy T.A. Burnham 33 years ago.
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

A Polk County judge sentenced a man to death Wednesday, for the third time, for killing three people.

The murders happened in 1981, 33-years ago, and Paul Beasley Johnson has been sitting in jail ever since.

It’s a case that hits home for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

That's because Deputy T.A. Burnham, was one of those three who died.

He was more than a Deputy, he was a friend to the Sheriff, who is fed up with what he calls the "legal games" of the case.

A sentence of death on all three counts of murder left the man convicted nodding emotionless like this is some sort of routine.

But in a lot of ways, it is.

“Their goal is always just delay, delay, delay,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday.

When this case began, Jimmy Carter was president, rolling down the car window was a literal expression, and mug shots were black and white.

But 33-years-later, the man in color, whose defense attorney describes as a ‘model prisoner,’ keeps catching a break through appeal after appeal and delay after delay.

“I'm glad for the death penalty. Glad Mr. Johnson got it. He deserved it,” Dave Waller, retired officer with the FDLE said

Colleagues, friends and family of the late Polk County Deputy T.A. Burnham refuse to let their feelings fade as the case lingers.

To one of the most outspoken through it all, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, this is far more than professional, it’s personal.

“He murdered my friend,” Judd said.

The history of these procedures tells us 64-year-old Paul Beasley Johnson's final breath may not come in the death chamber, but Sheriff Judd's hope will not grow dim.

“Will it take 20 more years? It may,” Judd said. “But I plan to hang around and watch it happen.”

Two others died from that shooting rampage back in ‘81. Johnson also killed a taxi cab driver and a Lakeland man who agreed to give him a ride that night. Johnson’s defense attorney said the motive was all in an effort to get money for drugs. Johnson had told friends if he had to shoot someone, he would.

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