Prosecutor: Susie Charbel
Defense: Cari McConeghy-Harris
John Stuart present
John Stuart's bail hearing was well attended by John's supporters. Mrs. Beasley, whose husband was killed, was there with a friend for the first time.
There was a delay while one to a few letters were introduced by the prosecutor -- presumably asking the judge not to let Stuart out on bail or to reduce bail. Whether these were from Beasley family members or friends, or witnesses was not stated.
Ms. McConnell-Harris started off with a presentation that in our legal system, pretrial imprisonment is a mechanism of last choice BECAUSE it is punitive, and it is unconstitutional to inflict or continue to inflict punishment on someone whom has not been convicted of a crime. That such punishment only comes about after a conviction.
She discussed Article 2 (our Rights) of the Arizona Constitution's stance on the reasons and desirability for bail in Section 22, and Section 15.
She went on to note that Mr. Stuart has spent several hundred thousand dollars in his defense and is now indigent. That he has family members present in the courtroom that live in our community. That several members of our community have come forward to support Stuart and to offer him a place to stay if he were to be released, including an officer of the court present in the courtroom. That Stuart has faithfully carried out the orders of the court, and returned to the courtroom for every hearing and complied with every condition when he was previously out on bail [except for getting arrested on the false paperwork filing charge]. That he posed no threat to the community or witnesses -- indeed, the subsequent witness interviews supported his self defense justification. It was also pointed out that Mr. Stuart had a real estate license that was due for renewal in October, and that he had to prepare for and take a examination if he was not going to lose his certification which amounted to further punitive action if he remained behind bars.
The prosecutor opened by stating that no conditions had changed under law that warranted a change in Stuarts bail as required under the procedures of the law and the court. That there was nothing being introduced that was new that could be used to reduce his bond. That when Mr. Stuart had a hearing before Judge Ryan bail had been increased from $46,000 to $230,000. Somewhere along the way an error was made by the state, and the bailable amount was entered as $184,000. She also mentioned his re-arrest for a felony ... which the judge interrupted her with a mild rebuke and said the conviction was for a misdemeanor. She also mentioned the one witness who claimed Mr. Beasley was backing away from the vehicle when shot was afraid for herself and her children [which makes me wonder if this was one of the letters the prosecutor introduced]. Prosecution rests.
The defense then rebutted that the "change" that had occurred was Mr. Stuart's newfound indigence as a direct result of being behind bars for six months in which he was prevented from earning a living. That Mr.. Stuart plead guilty to a misdemeanor because there was not probable cause a felony had been committed. Ms. McConeghy-Harris also addressed the one witness who claimed Mr. Beasley was backing away from the vehicle... that this was one witness out of over a dozen... and the only one to make this statement. That her testimony was impeached by subsequent interviews. And that the "fear" the witness had mentioned was acute; it was fear at the time of the shooting that if the bullet had missed Mr. Beasley it might have sailed into her car where her children were present, and did not represent a fear that Mr. Stuart would seek to harm her or her family now. Defense rests.
The judge immediately ruled that the defense had failed to show a change sufficient to warrant altering the conditions for Mr. Stuart's bail existed. This means (as best I understand) that Stuart is bailable, but at either $230,000 or $184,000 (I am not sure). Either way, it means Stuart remains in jail for the next eight weeks, and for the additional two weeks his trial is planned.
The judge brought up several charges Mr. Stuart is facing (yes, the judge said plural) -- I only know of one charge. The false paperwork -- which the judge also mentioned as a reason not to lower bail has been resolved. The "drive by shooting" was filed to RICO his vehicle and melt his guns. So it is not pertinent to the upcoming trial. So I do not know what charges the judge refers to, but second degree murder is the only charge I am aware of that is pending.
The defense had mentioned the difficulty of Mr. Stuart to get legal pads, and pencils or pens to write with to assist in his defense. The judge replied without a representative from the Sheriff's department he would not order the Sheriff to provide such materials, and that Ms. McConeghy-Harris needed to contact the Sheriff's representative before the judge could schedule a hearing. [Keep in mind this is to assist in his defense! You will know what to expect when it is your turn to face the state.]
Needless to say John's daughters and his girlfriend Cindy were in tears over the ruling. I hope John by now had steeled himself to the worst outcome, because this was the worst outcome. The state won everything it asked for and the defense lost everything it asked for. One fellow remarked that Stuart's having plead guilty to a misdemeanor didn't work out so well after all. But the truth is, all the judge did was refuse to act. The judge refused to see a sufficient change had occurred justifying any alteration in Stuart's current status. This is the easiest position for the judge to take. It costs him nothing politically, the media cannot castigate him, the system does not get challenged so no one within the system that he knows will fault him for a decision. Mr. Stuart's seemingly on paper, has had his Rights respected.
Had Mr. Stuart not plead guilty to the misdemeanor, one of two scenarios would have occurred: The prosecutor would have informed the judge that sufficient evidence was not available to allow the state to go forward on the charge, and the judge would have dismissed the charge hopefully with prejudice. Or, Mr. Stuart would be undergoing a trial right now to see if the state could get a felony conviction.
If the charge was dropped or he was found not guilty, the judge would have still left the bail in place as he has done. Or he could have been convicted of a felony false paperwork filing and have no bail continued. It seems to me that getting the charge out of the way best served his cause, even if the judge brought it up... I still think the judge would simply refuse to lower bail because it costs the judge nothing to do nothing. But if he lowers the bail, or releases Stuart on his own recognizance, well how often have we read a judge being castigated in the press for doing just this (honoring your Rights)...why we have even seen this from the Arizona Republic columnists and talk show hosts in THIS very case. So it is no wonder the judge is gun shy.
And in breaking news the Sheriff Arpaio's jails have just lost their health care accreditation for the jail's clinics "for failure to maintain compliance with national standards and providing false information about such compliance." No surprise in Amerika's toughest hell hole, it is just another unaccountable day in paradise.