Brain scan delays sentencing hearing for convicted murderer in Brooksville

BROOKSVILLE — Murderer Byron Burch’s sentencing has been delayed until late July after his defense ordered a new scan of Burch’s brain, catching the prosecution off guard.
Byron Burch
Burch was convicted of first-degree murder last week in the 2010 killing of Sarah Davis, a retired Brooksville teacher and community matriarch.

He faces either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

The defense originally utilized a method called quantitative electroencephalography to map Burch’s brain activity. However, the state raised concerns about the scan’s reliability, and the court ruled it inadmissible.

In response, defense attorneys took a positron emission tomography scan of Burch’s brain. They received the scan results, along with expert testimony, over the weekend and filed a motion to include the scan as evidence. The prosecution, though, was not aware the scan existed until the defense filed its motion. That left the state only a short period of time to prepare before the sentencing phase of the trial, which was scheduled to start Monday in Hernando Circuit Court.

Burch’s lawyer, Terry Lenamon, said the brain scans are important, showing damage that could affect Burch’s impulse control. “The PET scan clearly shows abnormal brain impairment, which is important in the penalty phase,” Lenamon said.

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino argued the PET scan also should be ruled inadmissible. But Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. said he worried that if he excluded the scan, a higher court could toss out the sentence on appeal.

Merritt also acknowledged the state would be at a disadvantage if he required the sentencing hearing to proceed as scheduled. He recessed the hearing until July 20, enough time for Magrino to interview medical experts about the PET scan and depose witnesses.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or Follow @josh_solomon15.
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