Harry Burkhart, a German national who was found guilty of setting a series of fires in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley area between December 2011 and January 2012, has had his plea of insanity rejected by the second jury to hear his case. The case was first heard in September 2016, when a Los Angeles jury found Burkhart guilty of 49 felony counts, but could not make a decision on whether he was sane or insane at the time of the crimes. Now that it has been ruled that he was of sound mind while setting fires underneath vehicles over six years ago, the defendant could be facing up to 89 years in jail.
The court heard how Burkhart, who is now aged 30, set forty fires in various locations over the course of just a few days, shortly after his mother was arrested on charges of fraud and removed from their home. It was claimed that the defendant was suffering from insanity due to the traumatic event, and had set the fires as a way of lashing out against his circumstances. The first fires were set just one day after Burkhart was witnessed having a violent outburst in the courtroom where his mother’s case was heard.
However, the jury hearing the case this time round landed on the side of the prosecution, who had stated that the fires were set methodically, had been premeditated, and were deliberately done at night when Burkhart could not easily be recognized. Burkhart had also repeatedly appeared in surveillance camera footage as he purchased the materials needed to start these fires, apparently showing no signs of a psychotic episode.
Sentencing is due to be decided within two weeks, with Burkhart now facing imprisonment for 25 counts of arson of property, 18 counts of arson of an uninhabited dwelling, two counts of possession of an incendiary device, two counts of attempted arson, and two counts of arson of a structure.
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