Death penalty conviction stands
A former Lansford man, sentenced to death for two murders in Allentown in 2003, has lost his appeal for a new trial following a decision handed down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week.
Attorneys for Julius Burno, 42, had successfully argued for a new trial in 2009, before Lehigh County Judge Edward Reibman, based on what they claimed was "ineffective representation" in the original trial.
Reibman ruled in Burno's favor, noting the prosecutor, then Lehigh County First Assistant District Attorney Maria Dantos, "Overreached when she made references to Burno's past 'bad acts, labeling him as not a good family man.'"
Burno's attorney at the time failed to object to the prosecutor's remarks, allowing the jury to infer, according to Judge Reibman, that "Burno was a bad man acting in conformity with his previous misdeeds."
After Reibman ordered the new trial, the Allentown District Attorney's Office appealed his ruling to the state Supreme Court.
This week's ruling overturns the lower court's decision, dismissing Burno's claim that his trial lawyer failed to represent him properly.
The case stems from an April 13, 2003, shooting at 2628 S. Fourth St. in Allentown.
According to court testimony, Burno and a co-defendant, Terrance Bethea of Catasauqua, went to the apartment of Carlos Juarbe with the intention of robbing him of drugs and cash.
Instead, it turned into a shootout that ended Juarbe's life.
A second man in the apartment at the time, Oscar Rosado of Bethlehem, was also killed in the incident.
Bethea was convicted of the two murders and given two life sentences.
Burno was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder and given the death penalty.
Burno may still pursue his claim of "ineffective counsel" under the Post-Conviction Relief Act.