ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (WAVE) – Trial number four is now underway for a former Army Sergeant accused of killing his estranged wife and former mother-in-law in September of 2007.
A grand jury indictment claims that Brent Burke killed his estranged wife Tracy and her former mother-in-law Karen Comer. All three previous trials resulted in a mis-trial, prompting trial number four to get underway Monday morning.
Monday's trial for Brent Burke started much like the first, second, and even third trials started. The first day centered around housekeeping items; introducing Burke's new defense team led by longtime attorney William Carter. Also new to the case: the judge. Judge Kelly Mark Easton replaces Judge Janet Coleman.
The defense also announced its plans to call six witnesses when the actual hearing part of the trial begins.
After the roughly half-hour it took to address any last-minute issues, the main mission began: finding a jury that will be both fair and impartial, and also not having any scheduling conflicts with the trial.
Finding a jury for this case is a unique challenge since Burke's case has been tried three times prior, meaning more people may have heard about it, and know too much to be impartial.
Officials believe that could be a problem: Monday's potential juror pool was made up of roughly 75 people, and that's just one group. Another group of jurors will be questioned later this week.
A group of seven people will be questioned individually each hour, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on both Monday, March 14 and Wednesday, March 16 from this particular group of roughly 75 people.
Another group will likely be questioned Thursday and Friday. From these two groups of people, the prosecution, defense, and judge must agree that the official jury members successfully meet all the criteria to be fair and impartial.
Each member was being asked these abbreviated questions:
- Do you know the victims?
- Have you heard or read about this case or the victims?
- Have you participated in conversations about this case?
- What's your reaction to this case?
- Do you have knowledge about items concerning this case?
- Have you formed an opinion about this case?
- Have you formed an opinion about Brent Burke?
- Would you be able to set aside those opinions?
Once the jury is seated, the hearing portion of the trial is expected to begin, which will likely be either the end of this week, or first thing next week.