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Brothers’ murder convictions upheld by COA

April 29, 2015

Two brothers convicted in the murder of a man with whom they previously had an altercation are not entitled to a new trial based on one juror’s concerns for her safety after recognizing someone sitting in the gallery, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

James and Leandrew Beasley were convicted of the murder of James Allen and attempted murder of Gerald Beamon after the two approached a car at an apartment complex where the victims were and began shooting. Before the shooting, Allen told Beamon that he had been in a fight with the Beasleys the night before in a garage, where Allen punched Leandrew Beasley after he reached for a gun. A struggle ensued and Leandrew Beasley was shot in the face. Allen showed pictures of the Beasley brothers to Beamon just before Allen and Beamon were shot in the apartment complex parking lot.

Beamon ran and hid after the shooting, and called 911. He flagged down an officer responding to the scene and told him he was shot by “J Rock and Little Rock,” which are the nicknames of James and Leandrew Beasley.

The two men were jointly tried and convicted in 2014. They appealed their convictions, making similar arguments in James Beasley v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1406-CR-253 and Leandrew Beasley v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1406-CR-382.

The Beasleys argued that Beamon should not have been allowed to testify regarding what Allen had told him about the altercation he had been in with the Beasleys the night prior to the shooting. The trial court allowed the testimony, but the COA found it should not have been admitted under Ind. Evidence Rule 804(b)(3) because none of Allen’s statements are facially incriminating and suggest that he had to defend himself from an attack by Leandrew Beasley. But the admission was a harmless error, Judge Elaine Brown wrote, because Beamon was able to identify the shooters.

The defendants also sought a mistrial after Juror No. 9 told other jurors she recognized a person in the gallery and was concerned for her safety. Using the standard outlined in Ramirez v. State, 7 N.E.3d 933, 935 (Ind. 2014), the COA found nothing about the juror’s conduct fundamentally compromised the appearance of neutrality. The other jurors testified they would not be impacted by her statements and Juror No. 9 was removed from the jury. The brothers are not entitled to a presumption of prejudice because they failed to show that extra-judicial contact or communications between the jurors and unauthorized persons occurred, Brown wrote.

The COA affirmed the trial court in all other respects and upheld the brothers’ murder and Class A felony attempted murder convictions, as well as Leandrew Beasley’s conviction for Class B felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

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