Child witnesses don't testify against Army sergeant

The Comer home, scene of the murders
The Comer home, scene of the murders
Rineyville pond that was searched by divers on Cot. 11.
Rineyville pond that was searched by divers on Cot. 11.

CLARKSVILLE, TN (WAVE) - A man who has been in the legal system for four years is fighting for the military to drop his case. For two days divers searched ponds in Rineyville, KY for evidence in Brent Burke's double murder case. On Friday, Burke appeared in military court raising concerns about his last hearing.

This is his second Article 32 hearing, which is a lot like a grand jury proceeding to see if there is enough evidence to go forward. The investigating officer in the last one recommended yes, but the defense has the right to ask for as many of these hearings as it wants until the general court marshal.

The Army sergeant has had four mistrials in civilian court, two of which ended in a hung jury. He's accused of killing his estranged wife, Tracy, and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer.

Some of the most powerful testimony in previous trials was from Tracy's two oldest children, who both identified Brent Burke as the man inside their home the night they were killed. They were called as witnesses, but their guardians wouldn't let them testify.

In July the military decided to take it up the case, which they can do because Burke was enlisted at the time of the murders even though the crimes happened in off post.

Capt. Jason Joynes, who is involved in the case, testified that part of the reason they went forward is because in the last trial, he believes the jury was split 8-4, which he says would be a guilty verdict in a military court. In state court, the jury must vote guilty unanimously.

Burke's current defense team consists of his two private attorneys from the last trial, John Shaughnessy and William Carter, and two from the military. They questioned witnesses from the last Article 32 hearing, saying they mischaracterized statements and questioned their prior knowledge of the case.

The new investigating officer, Maj. Jenny Hamby, will review the evidence and make a recommendation to the commanding general, whether it should continue to go forward or not. A Fort Campbell public affairs officer says there is not a timetable on when she has to decide.

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