Thursday, November 19, 2009
Cousins sentenced in Beale’s death
By SUE WATSON
Barry Lemond Hullett, of Lexington, Tenn., was found guilty of accessory after the fact in the death of Joe Beale III, also of Lexington, by a Marshall County jury Thursday.
He was a codefendant along with his double-first cousin, Marcus Hullett of Byhalia, who pled guilty to a lesser included offense of conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for consideration of leniency from the court. Marcus Hullett testified for the prosecution in the two-and-a-half day trial.
Barry Hullett will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole or early release for a sentence which would have normally drawn a maximum sentence of imprisonment of five years.
Circuit court judge Andrew Howorth said he felt the jury found there was significant circumstantial proof but not enough for a verdict of capital murder which the prosecution had requested. The jury did, however, find competent evidence for a conviction of accessory after the fact, he said. Alone, the verdict would have held a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
Barry Hullett will serve a life sentence because he met the criteria for sentencing under the habitual offender act of the State of Mississippi, also commonly referred to as the three-time loser law, said prosecuting attorney Ben Creekmore.
Over his life, Barry Hullett had committed at least five felony crimes, all of which were crimes of violence, according to Creekmore. Those felonies included armed robbery and aggravated burglary convictions and Hullett had served more than a year in prison in the state of Tennessee for these crimes, he said.
Prior to trial, the defendant, Barry Hullett, refused the district attorney’s offer to a plea to manslaughter, which would have carried a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, Creekmore said. Barry Hullett was also a confirmed gang member of the Gangsters Deciples, according to records of the Tennessee Department of Corrections - information that was presented to the court before sentencing but not presented to the jury.
Creekmore and sheriff Kenny Dickerson were respectful of the jury’s verdict although they had hoped for a verdict of capital murder.
“When a jury is faced with having to accept the testimony of a witness who is also involved in the crime, I think it is understandable to question that testimony,” Creekmore said, “even though the evidence clearly demonstrates that the defendant Barry Hullett was involved in the murder of Joe Beale.”
Dickerson said he had to set aside personal feelings and give the jury credit for doing the best they could upon the presentation of the evidence, the weight of the evidence and the instructions of the court.
“I thank them for their service in keeping the wheels of justice moving,” Dickerson said. “I think the case was vigorously prosecuted and vigorously defended. We respect the verdict of the jury and thank them for their service.”
Defense attorney Kent Smith argued heavily that the state failed to present direct physical evidence (DNA or fingerprint evidence) pointing to his client as the trigger man. He said he felt the lack of direct physical evidence linking Barry Hullett to the murder had an impact on the jury finding his client not guilty of capital murder.
“However, the rest of the evidence presented led the jury to believe he was involved in a lesser role,” Smith said.
The jury was instructed to make one of three findings: either guilty or not guilty to capital murder; either guilty or not guilty to accessory after the fact; or not guilty.
The remains of Joe Beale III were found in the back seat of a burned-out car next to an old cemetery on Mt. Carmel Road by a hunter on November 3, 2007.
Assistant district attorney Christine Tatum alleged that evidence placed the shooting of Beale at 1074 Bubba Taylor Road with an AK-47. Marcus Hullett testified that Barry Hullett fired three rounds into the victim, took money from the victim’s wallet and bought gasoline for his trip back to Lexington.
However, the state found no DNA or fingerprint evidence, ostensibly due to the fact that the evidence was destroyed in the burning of the car, Tatum said. The car had been washed the Sunday after the murder and the AK-47 was wrapped in blue jeans and a cotton sweater which could have removed fingerprint evidence, she said.
The prosecution also relied on cell phone records as well as witness testimony in an attempt to establish a route and time line for Hullett and Beale to have driven down from Lexington, for the murder to have taken place and the body taken and burned, and for Barry Hullett to have returned the same day to Lexington.
Smith argued there was not enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that his client was in Mississippi. He argued that the 40 items of physical evidence failed to link his client to the crime scene, at Marcus Hullett’s house or elsewhere.
He said as late as two weeks before trial the state was still attempting to find a DNA link.
“It was two years and 10 days ago and they (investigators) are still doing DNA tests,” Smith said. “That shows they are not certain and are still trying to prove this case.
“The state did produce Marcus’ gun, his house, his water hose (to wash the car of evidence), his pit bull eating (Beale’s) flesh,” Smith said. “They did talk about Marcus’ coverup in Marcus’ neighborhood, his shells, his dope. Marcus’ lies; that’s what they introduced. They didn’t introduce a polygraph test. He said he was lying. I believe they did produce the killer, Marcus Hullett.”
Smith argued that all the evidence pointed to Marcus Hullett being the killer.
“Marcus Hullett admitted lying,” Smith continued. “All of his lying alone should place a seed of doubt with you (the jury). He cut a deal. He’ll say whatever they want to try to get their evidence to match his statements. Marcus Hullett, now 23, is the young boy of 21 who made a mistake and is now trying to find a way out.”
Perhaps it was Smith's closing arguments that the jury remembered when considering the crime they found Barry Hullett guilty for.
Joe Beale III was 24 when his remains were found inside the burned-out Chevrolet.
Marcus Dashun Hullett was 21, and his cousin, Barry Hullett of Lexington, Tenn., was 26. A multi-agency investigation following the discovery of Beale’s body in the burned-out car turned up the Hullett cousins as suspects within four days.
Marcus Hullett was sentenced by judge Andrew Howorth Friday to serve three years house arrest, and five years supervised probation. Howorth suspended 12 years of a 15-year sentence he handed down to Marcus Hullett.
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