DANVILLE — A 27-year-old Danville man on Thursday was convicted of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old two days before Christmas 2011.
A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for just under three hours on the fourth day of Alvin C. Beasley's trial in Vermilion County Circuit Court, before returning a guilty verdict on that charge instead of a more serious charge of first-degree murder.
Both the prosecutor and defense attorney were disappointed with the decision.
"We felt and still feel he's guilty of first-degree murder," Assistant State's Attorney Sandy Lawlyes said firmly, as family and friends of the victim, Deryon S. Mullins, filed out of the courthouse.
Larry Mills, Beasley's attorney, wanted an acquittal. But he was relieved his client was convicted on the lesser charge — meaning the jury found that at the time of the shooting, Beasley — who goes by his middle name, Casey — thought his actions were justifiable, even though that belief was unreasonable.
"Casey was thoroughly convinced he was defending himself and his brother," Mills said. "Unfortunately, (the gun) went off."
Beasley appeared relieved by the decision, nodding when Circuit Judge Michael Clary read the verdict, and the deputy circuit clerk polled the jury. Then he turned around and gave a thumbs up to a woman in the audience, who was crying tears of relief. Later, he smirked when another woman, sitting with Mr. Mullins' family, cursed at him as deputies led him out of the courtroom.
Beasley will be sentenced at 2 p.m. Aug. 14. He could face between four and 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
If he had been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced 20 to 60 years in prison.
During the trial, Danville police testified they went to 20 Quincy St. shortly after midnight on Dec. 23 responding to a call that someone had been shot. They found Mr. Mullins unresponsive inside the home. He was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy showed he died of a gunshot wound to the back.
Beasley fled the scene but was arrested in a nightclub in Joplin, Mo., on Dec. 28. He was returned to Vermilion County and arraigned on three counts of first-degree murder on Jan. 9.
Several witnesses testified on the night of the shooting, Mr. Mullins had a party at his house on Quincy Street, which moved outside after his mom came home. About 15 to 20 teens were out in the street when a neighbor — Les Fisher, Beasley's brother — came outside complaining that his house had been broken into, and three TVs and other items had been stolen.
A short while later, they said, a car drove up, and Beasley got out holding a gun. At least one witness recalled that Beasley yelled, "Where's the stuff at?"
Beasley testified that his brother called him to tell him about the break-in and to get over to his house. When he arrived and saw the crowd, he grabbed a gun from another person in the car and got out.
When he saw several people coming at him, Beasley said he pointed the gun at them and told them not to move. He said he saw Mullins pull on gloves and advance toward him.
First, Beasley said the next thing he knew his gun went off. Later, he said he feared for his life. Two days later, he said he called the teen's father, Derrick Mullins, to apologize.
In her closing argument, Lawlyes asked jurors to reject the idea that Beasley was acting in self-defense when he pointed a gun at people or that he accidentally pulled the trigger.
"You don't just fire a gun at somebody and not think that's not going to hurt somebody," she said, adding Beasley may not have intended to kill anyone but should have known his actions would create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.
She also pointed out Mr. Mullins was shot in the back. "He's turning to run," she said.
If Beasley truly thought he was defending himself, why did he flee, Lawlyes asked. "This is a terrible situation, and nobody ever calls the cops. He doesn't call the cops afterward and say, 'I just shot a kid.' He takes off and goes to Missouri."
Mills said Mr. Mullins' death was "a horrible accident," and that prosecutors didn't prove first-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt. He painted a picture of a distraught Beasley rushing to help his brother. He said it was dark, there was a large crowd, people were yelling and had probably been drinking.
"He tells people not to move. Somebody moves. He jerks. At 12 o'clock at night when someone makes a move, you're not thinking. You're reacting," Mills said, adding his client "clearly felt that he and/or his brother were in danger."