Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

October 25, 2013

Burdett sentenced to life without parole

Duress claims fail to move jurors

By Matt Smith/msmith@trcle.com

Jurors in the 18th District Court deliberated about 25 minutes Friday morning before finding Rosalyn Elizabeth Burdett guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child in connection with her then 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. Jurors, after the trial’s punishment phase, sentenced Burdett to life in prison without the possibility of parole after deliberating about 10 minutes.

Burdett, who cried throughout much of her weeklong trial displayed no emotion during the announcements of either verdict.

Detectives arrested Burdett, 41 of Mansfield, in July 2012 after her former husband found images on her computer hard drive depicting sexual activities involving Burdett, her children and a man later identified as Jay Morgan, 50, of Arlington.

Morgan, who faced similar charges to Burdett’s, hanged himself in August while in custody at the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center and was pronounced dead later that same day.

Detectives from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers characterized the images retrieved from Burdett and Morgan’s computers as among the worst instances of child pornography found in Johnson County.

Johnson County Assistant District Attorney Brent Huffman apologized to jurors on the opening day of Burdett’s trial for pictures they were about to see. In addition to numerous pictures of Burdett’s children unclothed and engaging in sexual activities, jurors also endured the reading of emails between Burdett and Morgan containing content of highly graphic sexual nature and the introduction of sex toys and devices into evidence.

Burdett’s attorney, Bill Mason, urged jurors to consider the story behind the pictures. 

Mason, during closing arguments, argued that evidence presented during trial proves Burdett expressed no previous sexual interest in children and that she “staged” the pictures and wrote the graphic emails solely under duress and out of fear of Morgan and her belief that he would kill her and her children if she did not submit to his demands.

A hand-written contract submitted into evidence, for example, in which Burdett gives Morgan her daughter to use, abuse and discard as he sees fit was only signed by Burdett, Mason said, after Morgan tortured and beat her for more than an hour.

Burdett, on the witness stand Thursday and in video interviews conducted after her arrest, said she did not alert the police or others of Morgan’s abuse because she feared for the lives of her and her children.

Mason, during closing arguments, asked jurors to consider whether one person can control another’s mind and compared Morgan to Charles Manson, David Koresh and Jim Jones. 

Huffman, during closing arguments for the state, discounted Burdett’s claims of no previous sexual interest in children and duress.

The hundreds of pictures admitted into evidence of Burdett engaging in sexual activities with her children prove her sexual interest in children, Huffman said.

“For her to have taken the witness stand and continue the lunacy that this was all some kind of staged deal, it’s just insane,” Huffman told jurors. “This was all about Rosalyn Burdett. I agree that [Morgan’s] burning in hell right now, but he wasn’t this guy she couldn’t get away from. She liked this relationship. Duress needs to be an imminent threat, not just someone you’re scared of. Every single one of you would’ve resisted this. There’s no way you would have let this happen. She put herself in that situation. She liked to get beat and humiliated and she offered her kids up to Jay Morgan. 

“Thank God for [Burdett’s former husband Travis Burdett]. This would still be going on if Travis Burdett had not accidentally taken Rosalyn’s hard drive. These two kids would still be getting severely abused.”

Johnson County Assistant District Attorney Bryan Bufkin reminded jurors that Burdett admitted to numerous instances of engaging in sexual activity with her children.

“A mother is supposed to take her children under her wing and protect them no matter what,” Bufkin said. “Rosalyn Burdett did not just sit back and let things happen to her children, which would have been despicable by itself. She went further. Mrs. Burdett sexually molested her own children for years.”