One of our clients, Thomas Francis Burke (a San Diego pharmacist) faced
first degree murder with gun allegations after he fatally shot his roommate’s
boyfriend (Jess Michael Robles) on his condominium doorstep in 2016. Mr.
Burke entered a not guilty plea and maintained his innocence throughout
the proceedings. Mr. Burke, through counsel, presented evidence at trial
that he acted in perfect self defense when he fired two shots at Jess Robles.
Mr. Burke did not receive an offer before trial; he faced a possible prison
term of 50 years to life in prison if convicted of first degree murder
with the use of a gun. At trial, the prosecutor argued that Burke was
jealous of Robles and obsessed with his roommate Larae Clark who was dating
Robles at the time of the shooting. Witness testimony and text messages
suggested that Robles was drunk, angry, and had threatened Burke just
before the shooting.
On the night of the shooting, Burke’s roommate was in the process
of grabbing her belongings to spend the night with Robles while he waited
for her in the Lyft. Burke testified that he followed the roommate down
the stairs leading to the front door demanding that she return her key
to the condominium after receiving threatening messages from her boyfriend
Robles. As she knelt down to leash her dog, Robles knocked (or banged)
on the door. According to criminal defense attorney,
David Silldorf, when the door opened Robles locked eyes with Burke and dropped into a
“fighting stance.” In that moment, Burke felt he was in danger
of serious bodily injury or death and fired shots as Robles came through
the door. Criminal defense attorneys David Silldorf and Gary Gibson argued
Burke acted lawfully and in self defense when he prevented an intruder
from gaining further entry into his home causing damage to himself or
The jury ultimately found Burke was not guilty of first or second degree
murder. The jury convicted Burke of voluntary manslaughter—a lesser
included offense. At least one juror has suggested that while his actions
did not amount to murder, that Burke acted in imperfect self defense.
Voluntary manslaughter carries a possible sentencing range of 6-21 years
If you’re in need of an aggressive San Diego criminal defense attorney, give us a call. Our experienced lawyer has devoted his career to representing
people charged with a variety of crimes. He has helped thousands of people
accused of criminal offenses in both federal and state courts. Contact us
(858) 924-0127 or fill out our online form to schedule a free initial consultation today.