'Sanity Phase' Of Serial Hollywood Arsonist Case Declared A Mistrial
Harry Burkhart, the man who was convicted early this month on 47 counts of arson for setting at least 50 fires in Hollywood in late 2011 and early 2012, underwent the "sanity phase" of the proceedings last week, which was declared a mistrial on Friday afternoon.
The L.A. Times reports that a jury of six men and six women could not reach a consensus as to the nature of Burkhart's mental state, over the course of two days of deliberations. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli ordered a new hearing for October 13.
As ABC-7 notes, the jury already convicted Burkhart of setting the fires. This phase was meant to determine whether he was sane or not at the time, which would have a bearing on the nature of his sentencing.
Steve Schoenfield, Burkhart's attorney, told the jury that his client's medical records indicated he had a history of "serious mental disease," has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and is "profoundly mentally impaired."
Meanwhile, prosecutor Sean Carney previously told jurors that Burkhart's intent was "to harm and terrorize as many residents," as part of his "quest for revenge" after his mother was arrested in Los Angeles for a crime she committed in Germany. Dorothee Burkhart was wanted on 19 counts of fraud, stemming from allegations that she cheated renters out of their security deposits. In 2012, Dorothee, who was facing extradition at the time, told authorities that her son was being framed by Nazis.
Over several days between the end of December 2011 and the first days of 2012, Burkhart set more than 50 fires in parked cars around Hollywood, North Hollywood, and Burbank, using a method that ensured the fire would spread from the car to its surroundings. Several fires were started in cars parked in carports, and the flames spread to the accompanying building. Damages for the fires were estimated at about $3 million.
Burkhart faces up to 89 years in prison.