Fort Campbell, KY – The General Court-Martial for Sergeant Brent Burke has been delayed. Initially, the GCM was scheduled for February 6th–10th, 2012 – but a continuance was accepted by the military judge and was agreed to by both the government and defense counsel. A new trial date has not been set.
Burke has been charged with violating clauses (1) and (4) of Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. “Article 118 of the UCMJ states that, “any person subject to this chapter whom without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being, when he – (1) has a premeditated design to kill; (2) intends to kill or inflict great bodily harm; (3) is engaged in an act which is inherently dangerous to others and evinces a wanton disregard of human life; or (4) is engaged in the perpetration of burglary, sodomy, rape robbery, or aggravated arson; – is guilty of murder and shall suffer such punishment as a court-martial may direct, except that if found guilty under clause (1) or (4), he shall suffer death or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct.”
Burke faces additional charges, including allegedly violating Article 129 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states, “Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent to commit an offense punishable under section 918-929 of this title (article 118-128), breaks and enters, in the nighttime, the dwelling house of another, is guilty of burglary and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
He also is accused of violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states, “Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”
Burke has been placed in pre-trial confinement at a civilian confinement facility and will face a general court-martial, which is the most serious level of military courts. It consists of a judge, trial counsel, defense counsel, and at least five court members, which may include commissioned officers (and enlisted members at the accused’s request). 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. However, it is the accused’s choice whether he or she will be tried by a panel of officers, a combined panel of officers and enlisted members or by the military judge sitting alone.
Under the UCMJ, like all criminal laws in the United States, Burke is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.