New trouble in court as Beard brothers double murder trial begins

FRESNO, Calif.

Prosecutors argue it's a case of an execution by a pair of armed teenagers who were ready for trouble.

But one suspect's confession indicates it was nothing of the sort and the defense says the meth-fueled victims forced the Beard brothers to shoot in self-defense.

19-year-old Jarrad Beard and his younger brother Jerry are on trial for the double murder last December.

They killed 18-year-old Justin Hesketh and 16-year-old Brandon Moore at an apartment complex in northwest Fresno.

But how it all went down is hotly disputed and the Beards claim self-defense.

The case has had a lot of people wearing emotions on their sleeves and led to trouble in the courtroom on more than one occasion, and Monday was no exception.

The trial was less than three hours old before the judge had to let a juror go because of contact with someone related to the case.

Despite the latest distraction, the trial got off to a quick start with the biggest fight over who instigated the deadly confrontation.

The flashing lights of emergency vehicles mark the spot where Hesketh and Moore were killed.

About half a block away, Hesketh had driven his pickup truck past Jarrad and Jerry Beard.

"Jarrad pulled out his .45 caliber handgun and fired at the truck and hit the truck, hit the front left tire," said prosecutor Mike Frye.

Prosecutors say Hesketh thought a rock was thrown at his truck and made a U-turn to get closer to the Beards afterwards. Defense attorneys say Beard didn't shoot until after Hesketh had already made the U-turn, and they believe Hesketh knew he'd been shot at, and he was the aggressor.

All sides agree that Hesketh and Moore chased the Beards and another teen into an adjacent apartment complex.

When they caught the other teen, Jarrad Beard took aim again.

Hesketh was hit three times. Moore took four bullets.

Jerry Beard also admits he fired one shot with a different gun than his brother used -- a 9 mm handgun.

Although that shot hit Hesketh in the neck, Jerry later told police it was just a warning shot, and his attorney read the statement he gave after he was caught.

"I'm so very sorry," defense attorney Scott Baly said Jerry wrote. "All I can do is shake and jitter. I was scared, but I want everyone to know, when I fired the gun I did not mean to kill."

But prosecutors say at least one of the shots fired by Jarrad Beard was not at all accidental.

In fact, they say Brandon Moore was executed at close range.

"The muzzle of the gun had to have been pushed up against the surface of the body when that gun was fired," Frye told the jurors.

Moore still lived for a short time after that shot and defense attorney Phil Cherney says that's because the 16-year-old had a lot of meth in his system, as did Hesketh.

Cherney says meth can lead to explosive violence and in this case, led the victims to instigate a fight.

"A perfect storm where all the wrong elements come together at the wrong time and methamphetamine is what fuels what happened that night," Cherney said.

That storm has extended into the courtroom, where sheriff's deputies had to pull one victim's uncle over a railing in court to stop a confrontation with the suspects' family just days after the shooting.

Those raw emotions are now a step closer to closure.

The judge didn't say who had contact with the alternate juror she has now removed, but she stared at the victims' families as she warned everybody to stay away from the jurors.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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