HARRISBURG — Brian Burns, the Saline County man accused of murdering his wife and hiding her body, has been deemed fit to stand trial. A trial date has been set for Sept. 18.
The decision, which came during a hearing Tuesday, is more than half a year in the making. Burns’ defense attorney, Duane Verity, raised a concern over his client’s mental competency to aid in his own defense late last year.
Verity previously told the court that he noticed Burns could not follow a single line of thought for very long and had a hard time differentiating between his murder trial and his earlier trial for the attempted kidnapping of the former Saline County State's Attorney.
After several contentious motion hearings — Judge Walden Morris took issue with Verity’s stance that he could not go into detailed testimony of his observations of Burns because of attorney-client-privilege — Verity’s request for the court to order Burns be seen by a doctor was granted.
When asked in an interview Wednesday about how Klug described his client in the report, Verity said Klug wrote that Burns was “a little eccentric, but other than that, he’s fine.”
Also discussed Tuesday was the issue of appointing a special prosecutor in the case. New Saline County State’s Attorney Molly Wilson Kasiar had said previously that all of her assistant attorneys had a conflict of interest in the case because Burns had approached each of them for service prior to their hire by the county.
Verity’s thoughts on the state’s move were simple.
“They created a conflict and because of that conflict they want to get out of the case,” he said. He said he recommended they just sequester Burns’ case file, but that the state explained there is not enough room in the office to do that.
Kasiar was not available to comment on the case and no one in the office was authorized to speak on the matter.
According to court document website Judici, Morris has taken the special prosecutor question under advisement — Verity said the state has seven days to provide case law to make their case for the special prosecutor appointment, and Verity has seven days after that to submit his own case law examples.
“It’s a coin toss and the coin is still in the air,” Verity said.
When asked during Tuesday’s hearing if the appointment of a special prosecutor would push back Burns’ Sept. 18 trial date, Verity said the state’s attorney did not think so. But he’s not so sure.
“This is the sort of thing that creates delay,” Verity said.
It has already been more than three years since Burns was arrested for the 2016 death of his estranged wife, Carla Burns. It is alleged by the state that Burns murdered his wife and scattered her remains on their property in rural Saline County.
Burns is next scheduled for a pretrial conference at 9 a.m. Aug. 16.