Verity Burns

Attorney Duane Verity talks with defendant Brian Burns Friday after court in Harrisburg. Verity reiterated Friday his intention to withdraw as Burns' defense attorney in his upcoming murder trial.

HARRISBURG — Judge Walden Morris will likely be the deciding factor in whether Duane Verity can withdraw as counsel for Brian Burns, the former Saline County physician who is accused of murdering his estranged wife, Carla Burns, in 2016.

Brian Burns


During an Aug. 16 pretrial hearing, Verity informed the court that he planned to file the motion to withdraw, throwing yet another hitch in Burns’ trial, which was scheduled to begin Sept. 18 and has been beset by delays. He said because of turnover in his office, as well as a shortage of other resources, he would no longer be able to represent Burns in his case.

Verity said on Friday he still had not filed the motion, and planned to do so on Monday. He also said if his motion is not granted, he would be asking for another continuance in the case. The state, represented by appellate prosecutor Matt Goetten, was also asking for a continuance because the state was trying to gather evidence from computers and phones belonging to both Carla Burns and Brian Burns.

During Friday’s proceedings, Burns asked to speak.

“Can I address the court,” he asked. Morris agreed to let him speak.

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“This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Burns said. When Morris asked for clarification, Burns said, “He doesn’t want to be my attorney anymore.”

Burns said that three and a half years ago he asked the late former Saline County State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw for a speedy trial. He said he was “begging to go to trial.”

Morris responded that this is why he has attorneys to represent him.

“But they don’t,” Burns said. Verity was later seen storming away from Burns after an apparently contentious conversation in the lobby of the courthouse. As Burns tried to pursue him, bailiffs stopped him.

After hearing from Burns, Morris talked with Goetten and Verity about a timeline. Goetten said he anticipated at least seven days for the trial and two days for jury selection. However, Verity said he anticipated two weeks for jury selection.

In the end, the parties agreed to vacate the Sept. 18 trial date and to hear all final motions at 1 p.m. Sept. 16. After that hearing, the parties will likely set a new trial date.

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