A military panel sentenced Sgt. Brent Burke to life in prison without the possibility of parole Tuesday, concluding the U.S. vs. Sgt. Brent Burke General Court Martial. After two and a half hours of deliberation, the panel returned a finding of guilty on all charges.
The military had charged Burke with two specifications of premeditated murder; one specification of breaking and entering; three specifications of child endangerment; and one specification of obstructing justice/impeding an investigation.
Shortly after the verdict, the court began a sentencing hearing, which eliminated the possibility of parole.
The GCM for Burke started May 1 with panel selection after a nearly three month delay.
Initially, the GCM was scheduled for Feb. 6-10 – but a continuance was accepted by the military judge and was agreed to by both the government and defense counsel.
Opening statements were heard from the prosecution May 1 and the defense chose to delay their opening remarks.
May 2, the prosecution began calling their witnesses. Defense attorneys rested their case Monday after calling one witness.
Burke had been held at a civilian confinement facility, charged with the 2007 Rineyville, Ky. murders of his estranged wife, Tracy Burke, and her former mother-in-law Karen Comer, and faced a general court-martial, which is the most serious level of military courts.
The GCM consisted of a judge, trial counsel, defense counsel, and seven court members, which included commissioned officers.
For special and general courts-martial, the convening order will also designate the members of the court-martial panel (the military equivalent of the jury). Although ultimate membership of the panel is determined, as in the civilian system, through voir dire, the convening authority initially details the panel members to the court-martial.
As required by Congress in Article 25, UCMJ, the CA must choose members who are best qualified to serve based on their age, education, training, experience, length of service and judicial temperament. Burke chose to be tried by a panel of officers.
Burke’s case will receive automatic appellate review by the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.