Crime

Man convicted of raping two little girls gets new trial, life sentence overturned

An Alton man convicted of raping two toddlers and sentenced to life in prison will get a new trial after the appellate court overturned his conviction in Madison County.

In December 2012, a jury found Michael Burgund, 33, guilty of five counts of predatory sexual assault. He was accused of sexual penetration and molestation of two toddler girls between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. In early 2013, he was sentenced to natural life in prison.

But now the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon has overturned that conviction, and bound Burgund over for a new trial.

According to testimony offered at trial, Burgund walked into the Alton Police Department in April 2011 and confessed to molesting the girls. There was no law enforcement involvement up to that time.

Alton Police Officer Michael Beaber testified that Burgund was “nervous but cooperative,” and remarked that it was unusual for someone to walk in and confess to such a serious crime.

The trial took place in 2012 under then-Circuit Judge Ann Callis, and the older girl — then 5 years old — testified against him. However, the appellate decision said the child’s testimony was “vague and inconclusive.” Medical evidence was also inconclusive, supporting the state’s allegations but also explainable by innocent causes, the decision read.

Burgund’s videotaped confession to Alton Police was offered into evidence, as well as statements the children made to their mother and interviewers at the Child Advocacy Center.

In his defense, Burgund testified that he never abused the girls and gave a false confession because he had been coerced into doing so by the girls’ mother and was psychologically manipulated into believing he had abused the children.

In pretrial rulings, Callis excluded testimony from witnesses who allegedly would have corroborated aspects of his testimony regarding his psychological condition, and from a psychological expert who would have testified that Burgund was “highly suggestible and easily led.”

The state argued that Burgund had not been diagnosed with a specific psychological condition or personality disorder. Callis agreed, and excluded the psychological testimony.

But the appellate decision said Callis should have permitted the psychologist to testify about Burgund’s suggestibility, so that the jury could consider whether the confession was real or false.

Callis declined to comment.

Burgund’s appeal also argued that he should have been allowed to present two witnesses who would have testified about the girls’ mother’s state of mind and history. The appellate court also agreed that their testimony should have been allowed.

The appeal had also argued that the older girl’s statements to other people should have been excluded as hearsay, but on this the appellate court disagreed.

As a result of the appeals court ruling, the conviction is reversed and Burgund will be remanded over for a new trial. Madison County Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Mudge said they fully intend to proceed with the charges as soon as the case is officially remanded back to them.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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