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The second jury to hear all of the evidence presented in the murder trial of Brent Burke couldn’t reach a verdict Monday evening and a fourth mistrial was declared by Judge Kelly Mark Easton.
Family and friends for both sides were visibly upset as they learned that once again a decision wouldn’t be made in the trial over the killings of Tracy Burke and Karen Comer. Brent Burke, Tracy’s estranged husband, has been accused of breaking into the Comer’s Rineyville residence in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2007, and killing both women, with Tracy’s three children in the house.
Defense attorney William Carter said it wasn’t the outcome he wanted.
“We were hoping for a ‘not-guilty’ but we got halfway there,” Carter said.
Brent Burke’s father, Stanley Burke, said he and his family will continue fighting to free his son.
“We’re going to go back at it again,” he said.
Prosecutor Jeff England wouldn’t comment on the outcome because the case is ongoing.
The jury was presented the case shortly after 11 a.m. Monday after hearing closing statements and jury instructions. They deliberated until about 3:30 p.m. when they returned to the courtroom. The jury foreperson told Easton they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. Easton gave them a charge to work toward a common decision and sent them back to deliberate.
Jurors returned to the courtroom again about an hour later to re-hear about two-and-half hours of testimony from the trial. They asked to see testimony from Maj. Mark Kats, Burke’s superior officer at Fort Campbell; Dave Wilburn, Tracy Burke’s brother; Sgt. Christopher Austin, a colleague of Burke’s; footage from the crime scene; and they asked to hear the interview of Burke by Detective Larry Walker of Kentucky State Police.
They returned shortly before 8 p.m. to once again say they couldn’t reach a verdict. Easton asked if any of the 12 jurors thought that more deliberation would help them make progress to a unanimous decision. All remained silent. At that point, Easton declared a mistrial.
The first two attempts to try Burke were declared mistrials early after witnesses were unavailable. A trial was completed last year but, like this one, resulted in a hung jury.
The prosecution’s case rested on two of Tracy Burke’s sons identifying Brent Burke as the killer, as well as holes in Burke’s alibi of truck shopping the night of the killings. Burke was caught in a lie about his whereabouts that night as well.
The defense argued that there is no physical evidence tying Burke to the deaths, and pointed to some shaky testimony from Tracy Burke’s youngest son to prove he isn’t a credible witness. A large part of their case also raised the possibility of a neighbor as the shooter, after he made claims to two friends that he had committed the crimes, which he since has retracted.
A pre-trial conference was scheduled for 10 a.m. April 26 to schedule another trial. Brent Burke’s mother, Irene Burke, said after court adjourned Monday that she doesn’t know if her family will retain the same attorneys.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or email@example.com.