Burton found guilty on all 11 counts

Facing rape, robbery and burglary charges, Antonio Burton sat in stony stillness as the clerk’s arresting monotone voice announced the verdicts one at a time.
Each of the 11 counts came out the same: guilty.
The jury handed down the decision just after noon Friday in Hennepin County District Court; a courtroom full of downcast eyes and sober faces left the silence that followed undisturbed.
A sparse gallery included only one of the two rape victims — none of Burton’s friends or family members sat among the onlookers.
Burton’s convictions include three counts of first-degree burglary and two counts of aggravated robbery.
But most coveted by the prosecution — and most contested by the defense — were convictions on six counts of criminal sexual conduct.
An acquittal for Burton would have left the sexual assaults unaccounted for — and unpunished. He is the last of four men to face charges for an October 1996 break-in during which two University women were raped and a car, some jewelry and electronic equipment were stolen.
The three women who were attacked in their Dinkytown apartment never saw the assailants’ faces.
Defense attorney Joseph Margulies contended throughout the trial that the rapes were committed by Puiassance Andersen, an accomplice in the burglary and Burton’s cousin. Andersen was acquitted of the sexual assaults in April 1997 and is serving a sentence of 12 years and 10 months for his role in the burglary.
Two weeks of testimony, including a blend of emotional witness accounts and tediously exposed DNA evidence, was enough to convince the all-white jury that Burton, 22, was the lone rapist.
Judge Andrew Danielson thanked the jury and acknowledged their commitment to thorough consideration.
“It was a very difficult trial,” Danielson said. “You obviously weighed it very carefully, as evidenced by the amount of time you spent in the jury room.”
Members of the jury emerged from the courtroom visibly weary, exhausted and drained. Bleary eyes, red noses and pursed mouths purveyed the effects of more than ten hours of intense deliberation that included an overnight stay.
“We spent a lot of time on the DNA stuff,” said juror Donna Sanders. “I feel we made a decision beyond a reasonable doubt.
“There was no way we could do it in one day. There was just too much stuff.”
The Trial
Prosecuting attorney Steve Redding looked out over Minneapolis from his 21st floor office minutes after the jury closed the final chapter on the trial.
“I’m very relieved … very relieved,” said Redding, his expression disburdened by the outcome of the 16-month-old case. “And the victims are very relieved.”
Redding’s victory did not come easily. Margulies, an experienced criminal defense lawyer from a private practice, left no part of Redding’s case uncontested.
“I thought it was a very good case,” said Margulies, who was approached by the state to defend Burton as a specially designated public defender. “I’m very disappointed. I thought we had the better of the arguments. We still believe that (Andersen) was the person who did this.”
Burton’s three accomplices — Victor Porter, Andersen and his brother Giezwa Andersen — all had been convicted of criminal sexual conduct for separate previous incidents. Burton had not.
For that reason, Redding was hesitant to put Porter and Giezwa Andersen on the stand, even though both had received much lighter sentences when they agreed to testify against Burton.
Giezwa Anderson is serving a five-year sentence for robbery and burglary. Porter is free after serving eight months of a twelve-month sentence for robbery.
“They got extraordinarily desirable deals in exchange for pointing their fingers at Tony,” Margulies said.
Additionally, the defense dismantled the credibility of key prosecution witness Rachel Kemptner. She testified that Burton repeatedly bragged of raping the women in the days following the attack.
Her fragmented and sometimes inconsistent testimony contradicted police accounts of the day Porter was arrested in her St. Paul apartment.
“There’s an ounce of truth in everything,” said juror Sanders of Kemptner’s testimony. “We sort of had to read between the lines.”
The Turning Point
Halfway through the trial, a surprise development enabled Redding to keep Andersen and Porter off the stand — and de-emphasize Kemptner’s shaky testimony.
During the first week of proceedings, one of Redding’s investigators interviewed 19-year-old Jennifer Hameister, Burton’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his two children.
In that interview, Hameister proffered a confession that Burton made to her during a December 1996 telephone conversation in which he admitted he was the rapist.
“We had her on our witness list, but we didn’t know until the trial had begun that he confessed to her,” Redding said. “We immediately took a taped statement.”
Hameister took the stand; Margulies was sent scrambling.
“No question that it was a powerful piece of evidence for the state,” Margulies said. “She was certainly believable, and we didn’t have the kind of time it takes to thoroughly investigate her background.”
Redding was confident before Hameister’s testimony. “But I would call that a very important development,” he said.
Without it, the science of DNA along with more testimony would still have sunk Burton’s defense, Redding said.
But Margulies said investigators simply found in Burton what they wanted to find.
“What matters here is that the state decided to cast its lot against Antonio Burton right from the start,” said Margulies. He contests that Burton’s DNA was found on a vest belonging to one of the victims because he urinated in a recycling bin where it was tossed — not because he ejaculated on it.
Redding, an expert at using DNA evidence as a prosecution tool, called the theory a “fantasy.”
“They want to call it far-fetched, and Steve (Redding) wants to make fun of it,” Margulies said. “But hey — let’s pretend for a minute that there’s a presumption of innocence here. If you’re a juror, and you walk in there, and you have questions — you have to acquit.”

Burton’s Future
Burton will appear before Judge Danielson on April 16 to be sentenced for his crimes.
“I’ll ask for at least double what P.J. (Andersen) got,” Redding said, a sentence that could fall between 20 and 30 years.
He added that the victims will be given the opportunity to speak at the hearing, either in person or through a written statement.
Margulies said it is very unlikely he will be asked to handle Burton’s initial appeal, an option Burton is sure to exercise.
Redding feels the jury’s decision will stand firm.
“This was a very well-tried case with experienced lawyers,” Redding said. “I think we kept to the issues and fought for our positions cleanly. Hopefully, that will not bode well for a successful appeal.”
— Staff Reporter Jennifer Niemala contributed to this report.