Dustin Briggs was sentenced to death by the State of Pennsylvania for the murders of two police officers. According to court documents Dustin Briggs would open fire killing the two police officers who were attempting to serve a warrant. Dustin Briggs would be arrested days later and would later be convicted and sentenced to death. Dustin Briggs death sentence was vacated at one point however he remains on Pennsylvania death row
Dustin Briggs 2022 Information
Parole Number: 583GG
Date of Birth: 01/13/1977
Height: 5′ 08″
Current Location: PHOENIX
Dustin Briggs More News
A judge has vacated the death sentence of a man convicted of killing two Bradford County sheriff’s deputies.
The ruling generated both outrage and joy.
Dustin Briggs, formerly of Wells Township, was convicted by a Bradford County jury in 2006 for the March 31, 2004 shooting deaths of deputies Michael VanKuren, 36, of Warren Center, and Christopher M. Burgert, 30, of Sayre.
The deputies were shot and killed while trying to serve two warrants at Briggs’ home on Congdon Road in Wells Township. Briggs was caught several days later after a massive manhunt.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case after then-Bradford County District Attorney Stephen Downs recused himself because of his close relationship with the sheriff’s office.
Centre County Judge David Grine, who was assigned to hear Briggs’ appeal, recently set aside the death penalty based on a technicality, according to current Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett, who received notice of the decision.
“The petition asserts there was one death penalty decision given to the jury by court instructions, which would seem to be practical at the time,” Barrett said. “As far as factors regarding the death penalty, there were multiple victims and they were police officers. The (petition) said that process was improper. There should have been a separate decision on imposing the death penalty for the murder of each officer.”
Instead of the death penalty, Briggs’ sentence was changed to life in prison without parole, Barrett said.
Briggs’ petition also asked that the conviction itself be overturned. That aspect is being handled in a separate appeal, Barrett said.
In the meantime, Dustin Briggs is serving his sentence at the Greene correctional facility, near Waynesburg.
It’s been more than 20 years since Pennsylvania executed an inmate, and for practical purposes the only change is that Dustin Briggs will now be housed with the general prison population rather than the restricted living arrangements where death row inmates serve, Barrett said.
The ruling is just the first step toward a new trial and hopefully exoneration for Briggs, according to his sister, Sara Seymour.
“Our family is overjoyed at this turn of events. The judge’s decision to invalidate Dustin’s death sentence gives us hope of a new trial,” Seymour said.
“Dustin’s removal from death row is the first step of his removal from prison altogether. We are confident that his lawyers are working toward his release,” she said. “Beside the fact that over 30 of his civil rights were violated during the trial, and the widespread opinion that the trial should never have been held in Bradford County, is the fact that Dustin did not commit these crimes.”
But the judge’s ruling did not sit well with the law enforcement community, including Bradford County Sheriff C.J. Walters, who knew and worked with both Burgert and VanKuren.
“Obviously it’s shocking news to all of us and I think it’s a bad decision by the judge,” Walters said. “There’s a system in place for trial by a jury by your peers and he was convicted. They made the decision for a death sentence and now because of a technicality, a judge reversed the decision. It’s not fair to the system. He got a fair trial, but because of a technicality, a judge undermined what the jury’s contentions were. It’s shocking and it’s sad. Obviously there’s some anger because it’s not fair