Parties Prepare to Retry Murder Case

Parties in a murder case are preparing to go to trial for a second time after the defendant’s convictions were reversed due to issues with the exclusion of Black jurors.

Sixteen of the 48 potential jurors were Black the first time Mark Beasley went to trial for his alleged role in a 2015 shooting that killed 39-year-old Darryn Conte and injured another, according to court documents.  Attorneys may use a limited number of peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors without giving a reason but they must not use them for purposeful discrimination on the basis of race or gender. The prosecution in Beasley’s case used eight of their 10 preemptory challenges to strike Black jurors.  Two of those jurors were also struck by the defense. 

Prosecutors used one peremptory challenge to strike a Latino juror as well, according to court documents. 

The selected jurors convicted Beasley of first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, possessing a firearm during a crime of violence and unlawful possession of a firearm. Judge José M. López, who presided over the trial, sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

Beasley won his appeal in 2019.

“Mr. Beasley appeals his subsequent convictions, arguing that the trial court erred in determining that he failed to make out a prima facie case of discriminatory intent based on the government’s use of peremptory strikes,” Associate Judge Corrine Beckwith wrote in the opinion. “We agree and therefore reverse Mr. Beasley’s convictions.”

On Jan. 25, parties met to prepare for the new trial, which is set to begin in December. Beasley remains represented by attorneys Pierce Suen and Anthony Matthews. The defense anticipates calling two witnesses at most and is still deciding if they would like to call an expert witness. Notice of expert witnesses is due July 11.

While the prosecutor could not remember exactly how many witnesses they plan to call, she estimated it would be around 12 to 16 people with about two expert witnesses. 

The shooting at the center of this trial took place on April 26, 2015, after an alleged argument outside a nightclub in Takoma, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Beasley is accused of firing at a vehicle containing Conte and the surviving victim as Conte’s brother looked on. 

Parties are scheduled to reconvene for another trial readiness hearing on Oct. 14.