Trial Begins For Bentonville Man Accused In Shooting
Thursday, September 6, 2012
McDONALD COUNTY On Sept. 23, 2011, Brian Clapper shot and killed John Bevill Jr. One shot was in the groin and a second, the death shot, was in the arm and chest. The same night, Clapper, 31, Bentonville, Ark., also shot Kendrick Long, 23, of Carthage, once in the arm.
Those facts were undisputed by the defense during the opening stages of Clapper’s first-degree murder trial that began Wednesday morning in McDonald County Circuit Court.
What the defense did question was whether Clapper’s shooting of the two victims was a crime.
“This is a case of self defense,” said defense attorney Andrew Miller. “There’s a reason not every killing is a murder. This case is that reason. The evidence will show that John Bevill and Kendrick Long caused the events to unfold as they did. It will be undisputed that without both of their actions, none of this would have happened. It will be undisputed that Karis’ (Karis Cunigan, former girlfriend of Bevill and current girlfriend of Clapper) actions were reasonableand that Brian’s actions were pure.”
McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Pierce in his opening statement told of the night when Clapper shot and killed Bevill and wounded Long.
He said Long was giving Bevill a ride home from work when they happened upon Clapper and Cunigan at a shed near Bevill’s house in eastern McDonald County where Cunigan had stored personal belongings she had taken from Bevill’s house earlier in the day.
He said that Bevill and Cunigan got into heated argument which soonbecame physical. He said that the two were pushing each other back and forth. Pierce said at some point Cunigan started hitting Bevill and he held her back by the “chest or throat” to keep her away. He said that after each had ripped the other’s shirt, Clapper got a shotgun from his truck. He said the pistol-grip, 12 gauge Mossburg was not the only weapon Clapper carried in his truck. He said several knives, a machete and a hatchet were later found in the truck.
“He got that shotgun out and racked a shell in it,” Pierce said. “He was ready.”
Pierce told the jury that they would hear testimony about Bevill having a knife, but the only knife found was by a tree several feet away from where the incident occurred. He said Bevill also had a pocketknife that was still in his pocket.
“John Bevill walked toward the defendant and you will hear testimony there was a shot,” Pierce said. “There was a shot from that shotgun.”
He said testimony will show that Bevill was first shot in the groin. He said that for the second shot, the defendant “stepped forward and took that second shot, deliberately took a step forward and took that second shot.”
But under a blistering cross examination, Long, the state’s first witness, pointed out several discrepancies in Long’s direct testimony and from his testimony during a February preliminary hearing.
“Today you testified, tell me if I am wrong, you know you saw John Bevill after the fi rst shot,” Miller said.
“Yes sir,” Long answered.
“That’s your testimony under oath,” Miller said. “You know you saw John Bevill after the fi rst shot.”
Miller presented a transcript from the preliminary hearing that Long answered the same question di◊erently in February. He said in the preliminary Long testified he “honestly don’t know” if he saw Bevill after the fi rst shot.
“I want to make sure you understand this, we would agree one is the truth and one is a lie,” Miller said.
Long said he did not lie, but that his memory was foggy.
Miller also confronted on Long’s testimony regarding whether he saw Clapper after the second shot. Long said Wednesday he did see Clapper after the second shot, but his testimony in the preliminary hearing to the exact same question was, “I don’t know.”
Long also testified he picked up a rock at one point during the incident for protection. He said after Clapper shot once in his direction, he dropped the rock and took o◊running.
Miller asked if he threwthe rock, which Long denied. Miller also asked why Long’s escape route was towards Clapper.
Long said he was not going towards Clapper, but on an angle away from the shooter.
Miller also attacked Long’s credibility regarding drug use and his past criminal record. Long admitted during direct testimony he tested positive for methamphetamine and probably marijuana when he was taken to the hospital for the shotgun blast to his elbow.
He said under questioning from Miller that he used meth by “snorting and smoking” it in the past several months and using pot in the last week.
Long also admitted to convictions for assault on a law enforcement o◊cer, burglary and other tra◊c convictions.
Miller asked Long about an assault on a female and three counts of obstruction of governmental operations that he did not mention on direct testimony.
The trial continued Wednesday afternoon and is expected to conclude later this week.
News, Pages 1 on 09/06/2012