Brian Burns 2019

Brian Burns, left, talks with his attorney Duane Verity after court Friday. Verity announced during the hearing that he planned to withdraw from the case.

HARRISBURG — There was yet another setback Friday in the Brian Burns murder case when his defense attorney announced he would be filing a motion to withdraw from the case.

It happened as the state announced it was ready for the Sept. 18 murder trial.

Burns, who worked as a local physician, is charged with the April 2016 murder of his estranged wife Carla Burns. It is alleged that he murdered his wife and burned her body, later scattering her ashes.

During a pretrial conference Friday, special prosecutor Matt Goetten made his first appearance and said, outside of the need for one more pretrial conference, he was ready to go to trial. He said he needed to make some last-minute motions among other housekeeping matters.

However, Burns’ defense attorney, Duane Verity, told Judge Walden Morris he was not so sure he’d be ready. 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. He planned to file his motion to withdraw before the Sept. 6 pretrial.

After the hearing, Verity said he couldn’t comment further on the nature of the resource problems, citing attorney-client confidentiality. However, he did say he had not pulled out of the case earlier because of serious negotiations with former State’s Attorney Jayson Clark regarding a plea deal for Burns. Verity said had he pulled out during these talks it could have adversely affected his client.

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Burns’ case has been beset with setbacks. The first coming in September 2016 when he was charged with attempting to have then-State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw kidnapped. Then there was the request by Burns’ defense attorney Bryan Drew to have Burns’ cases moved out of Saline County — he said extensive media coverage of the cases would have tainted the jury pool. Judge Morris denied this request.

Pushing back his murder trial further, the court decided to try his attempted kidnapping case first. After being found guilty, Drew left Burns’ defense, citing unresolvable differences between him and his client. This delayed the sentencing of Burns for the conviction more than once. He eventually was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Then, in October 2018, Verity unsuccessfully argued for his client to be tested for mental fitness. He would not go into details on the matter because he said it would have violated his attorney-client privilege. Morris said he would need to present some evidence as to why the court would need to provide such an exam.

In January, Verity acquiesced to Morris’ request for details and said his client couldn’t follow a single line of conversation and routinely conflated his two criminal cases. Based on this, Morris granted the request. However it took months to get Burns seen by the doctor. In May, Verity told the court he had not yet received the report on his client’s fitness nor had he received a motion the state had made to appoint a special prosecutor — this was made because of several claimed conflicts of interest with the newly-hired staff State’s Attorney Molly Wilson Kasiar.

In June, the court deemed Burns fit to stand trial and to appoint a special prosecutor.

Burns is scheduled to be in court again at 9 a.m. Sept. 6.

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