The hunt for a qualified jury not influenced by news stories surrounding the 2007 murder case against Army Sgt. Brent Burke began Wednesday. A pool of about 150 potential jurors crowded into a Hardin Circuit courtroom for a chat with Senior Judge Janet Coleman.
Coleman told the crowd that selection of jurors for the death-penalty eligible case will take a block of time, possibly leading into next week, because of special procedures being employed for the high-profile case.
Plans are to call five jurors per hour, for each of the next several days to question them on any opinions about Burke TMs case, knowledge of any specifics related to the deaths and relationships which might affect their ability to judge in an unbiased way.
Commonwealth TMs Attorney Chris Shaw, his first assistant Jeff England and Burke TMs attorneys also will question jurors about their willingness to impose the death penalty in the event of conviction.
The questions are designed to eliminate potential jurors who may be unable to judge fairly based on facts of the case.
The trial is expected to take at least a month, Coleman said.
For 22 months, Burke has been jailed in Hardin County, charged with the Sept. 11, 2007, slaying of his estranged wife, Tracy, and her former mother-in-law, Karen Comer, 53, at Comer TMs La Vista subdivision home in Rineyville.
Tracy Burke, 31, and her three children had been living with Comer, her first husband TMs mother, since filing for divorce from Burke in May 2007, four months before her death.
An Army MP, Burke was stationed at Fort Campbell, a two-hour drive from Rineyville,
Tracy Burke TMs execution-style shooting occurred just days before a scheduled Clarksville, Tenn., hearing on the Burkes TM divorce case.
The killer shot Comer through the glass of an exterior kitchen door, then again once inside the home. According to investigators, the killer methodically walked to Tracy Burke and shot her in the back of the head before shooting her again.
Kentucky State Police detective Larry Walker claims Burke was the killer and made the 140-mile round trip from Fort Campbell to Rineyville with the intent to kill his wife.
The suspected murder weapon, a 9 mm handgun, was never found.
Evidence many consider circumstantial has been noted in court records.
Walker said one of the three children in the home at the time of the killings blurted out to responding officers, Daddy shot Mommy and Grandma.
That child, now 6, was found not competent to testify because of what Coleman described as emotional immaturity and inability to remain consistent regarding facts of the case.
The three children reportedly hid in a closet throughout the night, after the killings occurred. The eldest child, who was 9, called 911 the next day to report the killings.
Coleman ruled that boy, Brent Burke TMs stepson, is competent to take the stand.
Burke was interviewed by detectives on Sept. 12, but was not arrested until six weeks later. Police say they consider him to be the only suspect.
Walker, during an interview last Sunday, said he feels the state TMs case against Burke is strong.
If Burke is found guilty, jurors will have several options for sentencing, with death being the maximum.
Twenty to 50 years imprisonment and life with or without the possibility of parole are other possible penalties.