Former Slidell resident Mark Burge wants immediate release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he has been held since January 1979 on his teenage conviction in the kidnapping and rape of a 48-year-old nurse.
Carol Anne Kolinchak, an attorney for the New Orleans-based Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, filed a petition for Burge’s release late Tuesday in Baton Rouge federal court. The case is assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
Amanda P. Larkins, communications director for the state Attorney General’s Office, said Wednesday in an email: “We are declining comment at this time.”
And Ronnie Gracianette, assistant district attorney for the 22nd District in St. Tammany and Washington parishes, said in an interview: “We can’t comment today.”
The nurse was abducted, beaten and raped in the Slidell area in 1976, court records show. Burge later was convicted and sentenced to consecutive life terms, without the possibility of release, for aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape.
But Kolinchak noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2010 that the 8th Amendment “forbids sentencing juveniles convicted of nonhomicide offenses to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”
Because the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down Lousiana’s death penalty less than a month before the criminal acts that led to Burge’s conviction, he should not have been convicted of what were then the capital crimes of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape, Kolinchak argued.
Over the decades, Kolinchak noted, Burge’s aggravated rape charge was reduced to attempted aggravated rape, and he was re-sentenced to 50 years in prison for that offense.
In September 2011, a judge for the 22nd Judicial District Court reduced Burge’s aggravated kidnapping conviction to a conviction for simple kidnapping and re-sentenced him to five years in prison on the reduced charge, Kolinchak noted.
That made Burge “immediately eligible for release under Louisiana law,” Kolinchak wrote Jackson.
Kolinchak added, however, that the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge later overturned the state District Court decision on the kidnapping conviction and denied a rehearing on the issue in January 2012.
Three weeks ago, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request for review of the 1st Circuit’s rulings, Kolinchak wrote.
Now 54, Burge was 17 on July 28, 1976, when he and another teenager “placed a sharp object at the throat” of the woman, according to a Sept. 5, 1978, ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The nurse was abducted outside a grocery, according to the March 8, 1984, edition of The Times-Picayune. Burge and his 16-year-old co-defendant then forced the woman into a passenger seat of her vehicle “and drove her to a deserted area, where she was beaten and raped,” the Supreme Court justices noted.
Less than a month after his arrest in the case, Burge escaped from the St. Tammany Parish Jail, according to the Aug. 23, 1976, issue of The Times-Picayune.
Less than a year later, Burge had been recaptured. The June 10, 1977, edition of The Times-Picayune reported that Burge had been booked with two other inmates at the St. Tammany prison that week for the alleged rape of a fellow prisoner.
Judy Jumonville contributed
to this report.