The retrial of a man who walked into a police department and confessed to molesting toddlers will go to the jury Thursday for the second time.
Michael Burgund first confessed to child molestation, then recanted. He was convicted nonetheless and sentenced to life in prison, but an appellate court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial, which has been underway since last week in Madison County Circuit Court.
In April 2011, Burgund walked into the Alton Police Department and confessed to molesting two toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3. Up until that point, there had been no investigation or allegations against Burgund, and police later testified that it was odd for someone to walk in and confess to such a serious crime.
Charges were filed quickly, but Burgund later recanted, alleging that he never abused the girls. He said he was coerced into his confession by their mother, who he said had brainwashed him and tricked him into believing he had abused the children.
The trial took place in 2013 before then-Circuit Judge Ann Callis, and the older child testified against Burgund. Callis excluded testimony from witnesses who the defense said would have corroborated that Burgund was highly suggestible and easily led.
Burgund was convicted of five counts of predatory sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison.
But the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon overturned the conviction and granted him a new trial. In its decision, the appellate court said the girl’s testimony was vague, that medical evidence was inconclusive, and that Callis should have permitted the psychological testimony.
The second trial began last week, with two days necessary just to pick the jury. Once again, Burgund faces five counts of predatory sexual assault of a child.
Burgund testified in his own defense Tuesday. “I started doubting my own reality,” he said, according to the Alton Telegraph. “I had come to believe that I had done those things. I thought it was truer than what I thought was true."
Burgund testified that he was repeatedly told he had molested the children, although he had no recollection of doing so. He said the girls’ mother “ruled over him” and would not allow him to look at other women or billboards with women on them. He alleged she threatened him with a knife, cut his arm and blackened his eyes 20 times, according to the Telegraph.
The last witness testified Wednesday morning. Experts for the defense argued that the child’s testimony was unreliable and that Burgund was passive and easily controlled.
The jury was then dismissed for the rest of the day while the attorneys filed final motions before Circuit Judge Kyle Napp. The attorneys discussed which aspects of the previous trial could be considered, the wording of jury instructions and what exhibits would be provided to the jury during closing arguments, which were expected to take place Thursday morning.
Burgund has been free since August 2017 on $100,000 cash bond posted by his mother against a $1 million bail. He has been under instructions not to have any contact with the girls or their mother, and he may not be alone with any minor children.