Jury deliberating Beard double murder trial

FRESNO, Calif.

The trial against Jarrad and Jerry Beard wrapped up Wednesday afternoon after about three weeks.

Prosecutor Mike Frye had the last word, telling the jury this is a case of murder. But defense attorney Phil Cherney had their ears for most of the day Wednesday and he painted a much different, very colorful picture.

Popular musicians, philosophers, and presidents all came alive in the transcript of a Fresno double murder trial. Defense attorney Phil Cherney weaved a closing argument touching on American history, right up to Super Storm Sandy, which he compared to the so-called "Perfect Storm" of 1991.

"We were stunned by the forces as we are stunned by the forces that came together in this case," Cherney said.

His client, Jarrad Beard, admits he shot and killed Justin Hesketh and Brandon Moore last December. But the 19-year-old and his 16-year-old brother Jerry -- who also shot and hit Hesketh -- both claim they fired in self-defense as they were being chased. And Cherney said jurors should look at the abusive meth use by Hesketh and Moore as a possible explanation for violent actions, which he said forced his client to shoot.

"That tells you something about the erratic behavior, about this fear, about this scariness, what happens when people go wrong," Cherney said.

Prosecutor Mike Frye argued all that matters if the Beards claim self-defense is whether they had an actual, reasonable belief they were about to be killed or suffer great bodily injury. He called the issue of drugs a "red herring" meant to distract jurors from the true facts of the case.

"The question is did the defendants know that?" Frye said. "Did they know these guys were on meth and therefore violent? No."

In Frye's last words to the jury, he asked them to return with guilty verdicts on first degree murder. But from the defense perspective, the Beards are guilty of a lesser crime, if anything.

"The razor's edge of this case is upon self-defense and imperfect self-defense," Cherney told the jury. "It's manslaughter or it's justifiable homicide."

Jurors were sent back to start deliberation just before 4 p.m. Their decision could send the Beards to prison for life, for as little as three years, or completely set them free.

Action News will let you know as soon as the jury reaches a verdict.

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