New trial sought for man convicted in Nordland murder

Posted 7/21/21

The attorney for a Nordland man convicted of second-degree murder is seeking a new trial following a juror’s claim that he was not given a chance to examine one of the guns found at the scene …

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New trial sought for man convicted in Nordland murder

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The attorney for a Nordland man convicted of second-degree murder is seeking a new trial following a juror’s claim that he was not given a chance to examine one of the guns found at the scene of the crime.

John Paul Beckmeyer, 60, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a neighbor during a Marrowstone Island barbecue last August.

Closing arguments in the first-degree murder case were June 29 and the jury reached its verdict after less than four hours of deliberation.

In a court filing earlier this month, attorney Richard Davies said a new trial was needed “because irregularities in jury deliberations” affected Beckmeyer’s right to a new trial.

Davies said Monday he had been contacted by a juror after the close of the trial.

In a declaration signed three days after the end of the trial, juror Luke Meadows recalled that the jury started deliberating before lunch arrived on the day of closing arguments.

“The jury reached some decisions before we had the evidence,” Meadows said in his declaration.

The jury, he said, received hard copes of photographs and written exhibits after the jury had already reached “at least one decision.”

Meadows did not specify which decision that was. The jury found Beckmeyer guilty of second-degree murder while armed with a firearm, two counts of second-degree assault while armed with a firearm, and fourth-degree domestic violence assault.

Meadows also said the jury was given a thumb drive that contained videos and other electronic exhibits about 30 minutes after they received hard copies of photos and written exhibits.

Although the jury said it could look at the two firearms presented in the trial, as well as a second of a wall of the fifth-wheel trailer where Beckmeyer lived, and other physical evidence, those items were not in the room where the jury deliberated.

Meadows also said the jury did not look at any of the exhibits.

“I wish I had been able to view and handle the shotgun from the beginning of the deliberations,” Meadows wrote in his July 2 declaration. “If everything had been in place in the beginning, the outcome may have been different.”

Meadows said he expected jury deliberations to take a few days, and not a few hours, and said he did not have time to think about what happened and compare that to the exhibits used in the trial.

“I think we made a mistake,” he added. “I do not think we spent enough time thinking and talking about the facts of the case. There were a lot of questions that weren’t asked, and there were a lot of questions that weren’t answered. We did not thoroughly discuss the judge’s instructions to us.”

A hearing has been scheduled on the request for a new trial for Friday in Jefferson County Superior Court.

Chief Criminal Deputy Chris Ashcraft said he could not comment on the motion for a new trial.

Beckmeyer was arrested last August after he shot James McDonald, 24, during a barbecue on Griffith Point Road in Nordland. 

The dispute began after Beckmeyer told his girlfriend to turn down a loud radio and she didn’t, and Beckmeyer responded by hitting her on the side of the head. 

McDonald and his girlfriend confronted Beckmeyer about the assault, and Beckmeyer said he was going back into the nearby fifth-wheel trailer where he lived an arm himself with his .45-caliber pistol.

McDonald went to get a shotgun to protect himself and the two women at the barbecue, and when he returned, Beckmeyer pointed a .22-caliber handgun out the window of his fifth-wheel trailer, spraying the picnic area with bullets and hitting McDonald twice in the chest.

Beckmeyer had claimed self-defense.

During the last day of the trial, after Judge Keith Harper read the jury’s decision on each of the charges, the jurors were individually polled.

Each juror was asked to stand and say if they agreed individually with the results, and that the jury decision as a whole was correct as presented. They all did.

Davies, Beckmeyer’s lawyer, said a new trial was warranted because the jury began its deliberations for an hour at least without any of the exhibits available.

The lack of the exhibits, Davies said in his motion for a new trial, at the start of deliberations “started a runaway train.”

“The trouble is, from my view, the whole process got started without any exhibits in the room. And I think that changed the tenor of the deliberations,” Davies said Monday.

“It created a momentum and a way in which they decided to move ahead without the exhibits,” he said.

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