State: Beaty got a fair trial
A Clinton man serving a life without parole sentence in the strangulation murder of a 19-year-old Clinton woman does not deserve a new trial, a brief filed by 5 State's attorneys says.
Michael Vernon Beaty is serving life for the June, 2013 murder of EA Asbill, also of Clinton and Beaty's on-again off-again girlfriend. Asbill died in the passenger's floorboard of her car after a night of heavy drinking and arguing with Beaty, and in the presence of their friend, Will Alexander, of Cross Hill. Alexander has served a sentence of accessory after the fact of murder and has been released from custody.
Beaty's defense filed 7 arguments for a new trial. His attorney Rauch Wise said this week that in a week or two, the defense will file a response to the State's response, and the matter could be set for a South Carolina Court of Appeals hearing. The 5 State's attorney signed on to the appeal response include SC Attorney General Alan Wilson and 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo.
June 29-30, 2016 will be the 3-year anniversary of Asbill's death.
The State asks the appeals court to affirm Beaty's conviction. It says no alleged error cited by the defense of the presiding judge, W. Jeffrey Young, rises to the level of requiring a new trial, nor would the cumulative effect of errors - if any had occurred. The appeal response cites a court decision that says a defendant is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one.
"The Appellant received a fair trial," the State's response says. The defense's 7 arguments are each a zero, the response says, and "the sum of all zeroes is still zero."
"This case does not warrant reversal on appeal," the State's response says. It adds, "Substantial circumstantial evidence" was presented against Beaty, and there was "no evidence" supporting a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. The defense said the jury should have had the option of finding Beaty guilty on that lesser charges, which could have carried a lesser sentence.
Circuit Judge Young exercised his discretion "soundly" in matters of law, the State's response says. One grounds for appeal is Young's decision not to allow the jury to hear, from the witness stand, a statement from one of Asbill's former teachers, who is a teacher at Clinton High School. The appeal response says, "The State submits Appellant's introduction of irrelevant and upsetting testimony from an old teacher of the victim were a strategic effort to accumulate appellant issues."
The appeal says the judge erred in not allowing potential jurors to be asked if they, "just don't like lawyers." The State's response quotes Judge Young, "I do not find this question to be directly relevant or probative to the issue at hand,...".
Beaty's trial began Jan. 26, 2016 in Laurens County General Sessions Court. He was convicted Jan. 30, 2015 of murder and, following victims' and Beaty family statements to the court, Judge Young sentenced Beaty to life without the possibility of parole. The State decided not to seek the death penalty.
On Feb. 9, 2015 - according to the State's appeal response - the defense filed for a new trial. Judge Young denied the motion on March 27, 2015, then the current appeal to the State of South Carolina's second highest court was filed by the Beaty defense.