Appellate court reverses Danville murder verdict
An appellate court has reversed the guilty verdict of a Danville man in the 2011 death of a 17-year-old.
Saying the jury was not instructed that involuntary manslaughter was a possible verdict, the Fourth District Appellate Court reversed the guilty verdict for second-degree murder against Alvin C. Beasley.
Beasley was sentenced in August 2012 of killing Deryon S. Mullins, 17, of Danville.
Beasley originally was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in Mr. Mullins' death. The teen was shot shortly after midnight on Dec. 23, 2011, outside of his home at 20 Quincy St. When police arrived, they found the teen's body inside his home. An autopsy showed he died of a gunshot wound to the back.
Beasley fled the scene but was nabbed in a nightclub in Joplin, Mo., on Dec. 28, 2011. He was brought back to Vermilion County and arraigned on the murder charges on Jan. 9, 2012.
At Beasley's trial in late June 2012, several witnesses testified that a group of teens who had been at Mr. Mullins' house were in the street when a neighbor, Beasley's brother, came outside and complained his house had been broken into, and televisions and other items had been stolen. A short while later, a car drove up, Beasley got out holding a gun and ended up firing a shot that hit Mr. Mullins.
Beasley testified he went to the scene after his brother called him about the break-in, then grabbed the gun and got out of the car upon seeing the crowd. He said he pointed the gun at a group of people coming toward him because he feared for his safety, but he didn't mean to fire it.
On June 28, 2012, the jury convicted Beasley of the lesser charge of second-degree murder, meaning they believed that at the time of the shooting, he thought his actions were justifiable, even though the belief was unreasonable.
Vermilion County Circuit Judge Michael Clary sentenced Beasley, then 27, to 24 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the crime.
But the appellate court ruled that Clary should have told the jury about the possibility of a verdict of involuntary manslaughter.
"(Beasley)'s testimony suggests the gun went off accidentally, or was a 'reaction' to his elevated sense of fear. Some testimony of the other witnesses supports defendant’s position," said the appellate ruling. "The evidence supporting an involuntary manslaughter instruction is not as strong as the evidence supporting a second degree murder instruction, but the jury could rationally accept defendant acted recklessly and did not intend to shoot Deryon based on the evidence presented. Weighing the credibility of defendant and the other witnesses is a task for the jury, not the trial judge. The trial court’s failure to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter was an abuse of discretion."
Here is the appellate court's ruling.