National News

Jury can't decide sanity of German who set Los Angeles fires

Posted September 16

— A judge declared a mistrial Friday over whether a German man was sane when he set dozens of fires across Los Angeles during three nights of terror nearly five years ago.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli declared the mistrial after jurors deadlocked in the sanity phase of Harry Burkhart's trial.

The same jury previously found the former Frankfurt resident guilty of nearly 50 arson counts for fires he set around New Year's 2012.

Burkhart, 29, made good on threats to "roast America" to avenge his mother's extradition to Germany on fraud charges, a prosecutor said.

He placed fire-starting devices under cars in Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and West Hollywood on three nights between Dec. 30, 2011, and Jan. 2, 2012, authorities said. Some vehicles were in carports and in 19 cases the fires spread to homes and apartments.

No one was seriously injured during the fires that caused an estimated $3 million in damage, but the blazes ignited widespread fear.

Defense attorney Steve Schoenfield argued that Burkhart was seriously mentally ill and asked jurors to find him insane. He said medical records from doctors in Germany had documented mental illness symptoms over many years.

Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all