July 16 • 08:47 AM

Burke trial begins

Jury seated, opening statements heard on Tuesday

October 08, 2008
PORT HURON — Eight women and five men will decide the fate of a Capac man accused of attempted murder in the April 16 shooting that injured two in the village of Capac.

Jury selection wrapped up on Tuesday in St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kelly's courtroom around 2:30 p.m. The 12 jurors plus one alternate were expected to hear opening statements slated to begin at 3 p.m.

Donald Burke, 51, faces three counts of attempted murder for firing at and injuring Capac Police Chief Raymond Hawks and St. Clair County Sheriff's Deputy Tim O'Boyle on April 16. He allegedly also took aim at tow truck driver Mike Thorpe, whom Hawks had called to tow away Burke's car following reports of reckless driving.

Donald Burke at pretrial in May.
As of noon yesterday, six of the initial pool of 12 potential jurors that made it through the first round of selection had been dismissed. Last month, Judge Kelly denied a defense motion for a change of venue, citing that jury selection should first be attempted in St. Clair County.

Dressed in a suit and tie, Burke interacted with defense attorney Frederick Lepley during jury selection.

Among those dismissed early on were the wife of a teacher in the Capac school district who was at work when the schools were locked down and a border patrol officer.

Prosecutor Mike Wendling's questions for potential jurors involved their positions on neighbor disputes, whether they've had negative or effective contact with police, familiarity with firearms and media coverage of the incident.

Defense questions centered on intent and motive with regard to discharging a firearm—whether firing a shot is automatically associated with intent to injure or kill.

A total of 11 jurors were dismissed before the final selection. Only one of the 13 chosen said they knew nothing about the incident—the others indicated that media coverage has not influenced their opinion or led to any predisposition regarding the matter.

The alleged shooting played out in front of Burke's William G. Drive home but Burke fled the scene and was found 12 hours later hiding in a vehicle at Pirrone's Produce.

In addition to eyewitness and police accounts, jurors will also hear taped statements made by Burke from his hospital bed. The 51 year-old was hospitalized immediately after his arrest because of chest pains. He eventually underwent major surgery and was later arraigned. Burke's defense attorney challenged the validity of his statements to police during a hearing last month, but Kelly ruled that they were admissable for trial.

Hawks, who is unable to work as a result of his injuries, and his wife Vickie sat in the courtroom during jury selection. Hawks will testify at trial, along with other witnesses for the prosecution including Thorpe, O'Boyle, attending physicians and neighbors at the scene.

The defense witness list consists of four doctors.

Burke is currently housed in the St.Clair County Jail on a $3 million bond.

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