Prosecutors reply to flurry of last-minute filings that pushed back murder trial


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

The Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office has replied to a last-minute flurry of motions filed by the attorney for aggravated-murder defendant Austin Burke.

Chris Becker, assistant county prosecutor, said in a Friday filing that today’s scheduled trial in the case needed to be rescheduled to “deal with” the eight motions filed by the defendant Dec. 28 and the possibility a state’s witness may not be available.

Judge Andrew Logan, though he was on vacation, agreed Friday afternoon and scheduled a hearing today on the new motions instead of having the trial.

Burke, 19, of Bristolville, is charged in the June 14 aggravated murder and aggravated robbery of Brandon Sample, 22, and the June 21 aggravated robbery of the Pizza Joe’s restaurant in Cortland.

Burke is accused of killing Sample in a wooded area off Peck Leach Road in the Grand River wildlife refuge in Bristol Township.

But one of the motions filed by his attorney, Bradley Olson Jr., says Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, listed the place of death for Sample as “unknown.” If that is true, then venue cannot be established and the charge must be dismissed, Olson said.

A Becker filing says prosecutors intend to prove venue, “like any other element” of the case, at the trial, so it’s premature to seek dismissal before the trial even starts.

Once the evidence has been presented, “if the defendant feels that an element has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, then he is free to argue that point to the jury,” Becker said.

Dr. Germaniuk might not have been available to testify at the trial, Becker said, because he was admitted to the hospital last week with an unspecified ailment, and it’s unclear when he will be healthy enough to testify.

Becker also responded Friday to a motion asking that evidence regarding a pistol police recovered when Burke was arrested be excluded from evidence on the grounds there is no evidence it was involved in the homicide or the robbery.

“The state submits there will be ample evidence from eyewitnesses, physical evidence, video, photographs and statements made by the defendant to show the defendant committed these crimes with a firearm,” Becker said.

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