Saturday, March 8, 2014
BY ELIZABETH LARSON, Special to the Kennebec Journal
LAKEPORT, Calif. -- A judge has ruled that the murder trial of former Augusta, Maine, resident Robby Beasley can move forward after the Beasley's defense lawyer sought a mistrial.
Judge Andrew Blum heard arguments last week from defense attorney Stephen Carter and prosecutor Art Grothe and ruled Thursday that the trial would continue.
Carter's motion for a mistrial resulted from testimony by witness Elijah Bae McKay on the first day of trial, Nov. 7, "I've known Robby for a long time and he's talked about killing people before and he's never done it."
Carter said that statement was prejudicial.
Beasley, 32, who attended Gardiner, Maine-area schools with McKay, 30, and previously lived in Augusta, is on trial for double murder in Lake County. Beasley is accused in the shooting death of Frank Maddox, 32, and his wife, Yvette, 40 -- both of whom were from Augusta -- along the side of Morgan Valley Road on Jan. 22, 2010.
Blum said Thursday there is the potential for prejudice from McKay's statement, but the presumption under the law is that such prejudice can be remedied in most cases because "we didn't leave it at that."
Jurors were told twice that McKay had improperly volunteered the information. "I think with that clarification made to the jury, they know that it's not serious," Blum said.
McKay, who has continued to testify intermittently since the trial began last week, on Thursday answered questions about the marijuana growing business that he and Beasley had been involved in at the time of the murders.
The prosecution asserts that Beasley killed the Maddoxes because he believed they stole marijuana from his apartment after he brought them west to work for his drug operation.
McKay is also charged with double murder but is not yet scheduled for trial. He is alleged to have loaned Beasley the 9-mm handgun that the prosecution says he used to shoot each of the Maddoxes twice in the head, and is also alleged to have helped Beasley get rid of clothing and his cellphone and move the Maddoxes' pickup.
The prosecution has granted McKay immunity over any new information he provides as a trial witness, but has not been promised a plea bargain.
Beasley planned to scare the Maddoxes into confessing to stealing his marijuana, but instead wound up shooting both, McKay testified Thursday.
"I didn't think it would ever work," McKay said of the plan to scare the couple, who had moved to California at Beasley's urging to assist in McKay's and Beasley's marijuana growing operation.
McKay testified that in the days before the murder, Beasley was to tell the couple that his grandmother died and he had to return to Maine, so he needed a ride to the airport. McKay was going to pick him up after he confronted the couple.
McKay said Beasley talked about killing the couple during a conversation on Jan. 20, 2010. Marijuana was stolen from Beasley's Lower Lake apartment sometime in the previous 10 days, McKay said.
On the day of the murders, McKay was at his brother's birthday party when he got a call from Beasley asking him to pick him up near a gate on Morgan Valley Road. When they spoke, Beasley made a point of saying that "it hadn't gone as it should have."
McKay said when he pulled over on Morgan Valley Road, Beasley came running toward his Range Rover.
"He was very distressed looking and his eyes were big," said McKay, adding that Beasley was "freaking out."
Beasley told McKay that he had shot the couple and afterward, "He made the comment he was going to go to hell," McKay said. Beasley told McKay that he shot the couple after he pulled them from the truck and they refused to answer his questions.
Beasley refused to bury the bodies after seeing passing vehicles. McKay said it wasn't until the next morning, when they moved the Maddoxes' pickup, that Beasley gave him the full story.
Carter asked him if he had been glad the couple was dead. "I wasn't glad they were dead but I felt safer," he replied. He felt they had become dangerous to his family, which included his circle of close friends -- among them Beasley, who he said was like a brother to him.
McKay recalled driving Beasley home from dropping off the Maddoxes' pickup. He told Beasley he was angry about how things had unfolded and wanted to know what happened.
"He basically tried to make his case on why it was all right that he shot them and why he had to," McKay said.
Elizabeth Larson, editor of the Lake County News, is a correspondent for the Kennebec Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.