I ask him about the man he killed and he gives a variation of his standard response: ‘I didn’t mean to kill nobody. I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head and two times in the chest. Him dying was between him and the Lord.’
It happened at a dice game long ago; Burnside had beaten the man out of $400. In court he claimed self-defence, although one of the bullets entered the back of the victim’s head. Burnside was working for a powerful white plantation owner at the time, driving a tractor. His boss wanted him back at work so he fixed things with the judge and R.L. ended up serving only six months.