Jury finds Broughton guilty

Colin Broughton had offered to plead guilty for a life sentence.

A Berkeley County jury needed less than an hour Wednesday before convicting Colin Broughton of murder and several other crimes in connection with the 2006 slaying of Shirley Birch.

The same jury will reassemble at 2 p.m. today at the courthouse in Moncks Corner for a new phase of the trail that will decide if the state should put Broughton to death or if he will live out the rest of his life in prison.

There was little suspense behind the verdict. Broughton's lawyer, Bill McGuire, had tried to strike a deal in which his client would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. He told the jury he wouldn't argue the facts of the crime, only whether his client deserved to be put to death for it.

Broughton, 25, also was found guilty of criminal sexual assault, armed robbery, burglary, grand larceny, assault and battery with attempt to kill and attempted arson.

McGuire offered to have Broughton plead guilty and move directly to the sentencing phase, and Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. said he would agree if both sides would agree not to file an appeal on that issue and if Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson agreed. Wilson did not, and the trial's first phase lasted 2 1/2 days.

McGuire said he was bothered because during their closing argument, prosecutors questioned why the state had to go through the trial's first phase.

"I thought that was a pretty cheap shot, to tell the truth," McGuire said. "They're trying to harness the jury's anger against my guy by making it out as if this trial was because of him. That's their fault."

Defense attorneys also have said they likely will appeal based on an earlier ruling that prevented one member of their defense team, Charleston County public defender Beattie Butler, from speaking up in court.

As the sentencing phase resumes, prosecutors are expected to focus on the crime's brutality and aggravating circumstances, while defense attorneys will portray Broughton as a man who developed a serious drug habit after years of sexual victimization but who has been a model prisoner since his arrest three years ago.