Former BPD officer has conviction thrown out on appeal

Former BPD officer has conviction thrown out on appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has reversed the conviction of former Beaumont Police Officer Todd Burke in an opinion dated Wednesday, June 27.

Burke was indicted for the offense of official oppression, a class A misdemeanor, and the judge moved the case to Bexar County. After a previous trial ended in a hung jury, a jury convicted Burke of the charged offense and the court assessed his punishment at 90 days in jail, probated for one year, and a $350 fine.

Burke, along with Officer James Cody Guedry, was convicted of official oppression in a charge stemming from a 2007 traffic stop in which Burke was accused of striking Derrick Newman several times with his baton while Guedry was charged with tazing Newman twice.

There remains a chance that former Beaumont Police Officer Todd Burke can work something out with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office following his oppression conviction being overturned earlier this week. Tom Maness, the Jefferson County District Attorney, said he has not spoken with Burke’s attorney, adding he’s unsure who Burke’s attorney is at the moment – but that he will speak with him at some point to see if they can come to some sort of agreement.

If not, the case will be retried. Judge Layne Walker heard the case initially.

“It’s a pending legal case right now, so we’re back to square one,” said the long-time district attorney.

Newman claimed the actions of the police officers were unwarranted because he was cooperating with their commands. Guedry claimed Newman had grabbed his hand as Guedry was performing a pat down search, which was seen as a threat because Newman could have potentially had a weapon on his person.

Jurors in the second trial deliberated less than an hour and a half before coming back with the guilty verdict. Burke appealed his conviction, citing the trial court’s denial of his challenge against a prospective juror after that juror indicated his past experience with law enforcement would make it difficult for him to be fair and impartial. The Ninth Court of Appeals rejected this claim, finding that the juror’s earlier statement that he could follow the law as given to him qualified him as a vacillating juror and that the reviewing court must therefore defer to the trial court. 

Upon further appeal, The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has said the Ninth Court of Appeals was in error in denying Burke's challenge because the prospective juror's "responses left no room for doubt that he could not be a fair and impartial juror given his past experience with law enforcement.” 

"We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the cause to the trial court for a new trial," the court's opinion stated.

Guedry’s trial began in late November 2011 and lasted about a week. He was convicted Friday, Dec. 3, and subsequently lost his job.

Maness said he felt the juror was properly sat in Burke's case and that two courts agreed. “I don’t know if I agreed with the decision, but I’ve been doing this a long time. This isn’t the first case to get overturned and it won’t be the last.”

No date has been scheduled for when the Burke case will be retried.