Coley McCraney Preliminary Hearing On Beasley - Hawlett Murders In Dale CountyRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Apr 03 2019 10:07 PM
OZARK: This morning the preliminary hearing for Coley McCraney was held in the Dale County Courthouse.
The preliminary hearing was held before Dale County District Court Judge Stan Garner.
A preliminary hearing is a “probable cause” hearing used to determine that “probably a crime was committed” and “probably this defendant committed the crime”. The rules of evidence used in order to convict do not apply in a preliminary hearing. Hearsay evidence is admissible.
The District Court can find that probable cause does not exist in a case and dismiss the charges. But that ruling does not prevent a District Attorney from presenting evidence to a Grand Jury and seeking an indictment.
A District Court, like a Municipal Court, are considered
Courts of No Record”. That means that normally there are not court reporters present in District Court or Municipal Court. Unlike Circuit Court where everything is on the record of a court reporter.
The charges against Coley McCraney are death penalty cases. And those cases do require a court reporter in all court actions. So everything today there is an official transcript record.
Judge Garner allowed laptop computers in the courtroom this morning. No video or audio equipment other than that of the court reporter was allowed.
The victims ( State ) is represented by 33rd Judicial Circuit District Attorney Kirke Adams and Assistant District Attorney David Emory.
The defendant, Coley McCraney, is represented by Defense Attorney David Harrison.
Family and friends of victims J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett were present in the courtroom and family and friends of defendant Coley McCraney were in the courtroom for the preliminary hearing.
In preliminary hearings the state has the burden of establishing probable cause in order to bind the case over to a Grand Jury. So the evidence begins with the Prosecution.
Ozark Police Criminal Investigation Commander Lt. Michael Bryan was the first witness called to the stand by the Prosecution.
Bryan was not with Ozark Police Department in 1999 when these tragic deaths occurred. Lt. Bryan testified that he inherited these cases as Commander of Criminal Investigations.
Lt. Bryan has been with Ozark Police Department for 13 years.
Retired Ozark Police Captain Bobby Blakenship is the first person who spotted the car the girls were found in. Blakenship retired since Marlos Walker became Chief of Police in Ozark and is now the Chief of Police of Dothan Regional Airport Police Department.
At the time Chief Blakenship found the car they had no report of anyone missing.
Shortly after Ozark Police found the vehicle Dothan Police issued a missing persons report on the girls.
NOTE: In 1999 cell phones were not in use. The communications we have today were not in existence then.
Lt. Bryan testified that several hours passed between the time the car was found and the time the bodies were discovered in the trunk.
After being notified of finding the vehicle Dothan Police responded to Ozark. It was after Dothan Police arrived, several hours had passed since finding the vehicle. Finally officers opened the trunk and that was when the two victims were found deceased in the trunk.
Lt. Bryan testified that case information revealed a phone call being made from the Big/Little Store late July 31, 1999. Victim Traci Hawlett apparently told her mother she and Ms. Beasley were lost but had found out how to get home and said they would be home shortly. That call was at 11:38 PM and lasted for four minutes. Bryan testified the girls had a 11:30 PM curfew.
The crime scene where the car was found with the bodies was less than one mile from the Big/Little Store where the phone call was made by the victims to the mother.
Lt. Bryan described the wounds the victims suffered. Lt. Bryan testified to the results of the autopsy and the autopsy report.
Lt. Bryan testified deadly shots to the victims came from three brands of 9mm firearms. Lt. Bryan testified that gunpowder was embedded in the victim’s hands and head. This was indicators the victims were shot at close range.
Lt. Bryan testified that forensic examination revealed the ammunition was a Hi-Point 9 mm handgun.
Lt. Bryan testified that evidence collected showed stains on Victim Beasley’s sweater and underwear, both of which are still in the possession of Ozark Police Department.
Evidence was identified from the Forensic Lab and DNA established for a profile for a CODIS database.
At the time CODIS was only for persons arrested for certain crimes and not for the military.
Lt. Bryan testified both victims had mud on their pants and the clothing garments were wet.
Lt. Bryan said no where in the case file investigation has Coley McCraney’s name been mentioned until the recent developments.
Lt. Bryan testified that as McCraney information developed and investigation took place it was found that McCraney lived on Patterson Drive, which in 1999 was known as Lisenby Drive. This is reported to be .08 miles from the place the car was found and the bodies.
In 1999 the power to the residence McCraney lived in was terminated 15 days following the 1999 murders.
Lt. Bryan testified that Coley McCraney, in 2004, while in the United States Air Force, had a criminal history. That history included Aggravated Battery, Battery of a Child less than 16 years of age, Unlawful Detention, and Possession of Unlawful Weapon while in Air Force.
The Unlawful Weapon, a 9mm. The same caliber weapon used in the Hawlett - Beasley murders. A high point 9mm weapon which was legally owned by Coley McCraney.
Lt. Bryan testified the arrest of Coley McCraney was in Mississippi while serving in the United States Air Force.
Lt. Bryan testified that defendant Coley McCraney denied any knowledge of knowing either of the victim’s.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY DAVID HARRISON
Harrison asked Ozark Police Lt. Bryan how many murder cases that he has personally investigated over the past two years and how many murder cases that he has solved. Lt. Bryan could not give an answer.
Harrison then quipped more unsolved then solved, is that true? Lt. Bryan said he can not give figures without data in front of him.
Harrison said the Forensic Report mentions semen found but no explicit mention of rape. Harrison had Lt. Bryan read from the Forensic report there were no injuries to Victim Beasley’s private area. Harrison is questioning Lt. Bryan about the rape charge.
Harrison ask Lt. Bryan is Colen McCraney had a pistol, was that your testimony? Lt. Bryan testified that is right. Harrison then said the Air Force report read by Lt. Bryan fails to mention a 9mm pistol.
Harrison and Lt. Bryan have exchange back and forth on if a weapon was found. Harrison contends the report only mentions that 9mm ammunition and cartridge found and civilian McDaniels ( who was with McCraney in 2014 who the weapon belonged to ) involved in previous arrest. Harrison said the Military Report shows no mention of 9mm weapon found on McCraney but Lt. Bryan said the high point handgun listed as belonging to suspect.
Lt. Bryan testified that McCraney told the investigators that he lived in a different location with his mother on Coleman Drive in Ozark at the time of the murders.
Lt. Bryan was asked by Defense Attorney David Harrison how many people confessed to these murders. Bryan testified that he was not involved in the investigation at that time.
Lt. Bryan testified that McCraney’s DNA profile would only been found in 1 in 38.3 decillion of Caucasian individual and 129 nonillion of American Americans, far more than the population of living people.
Harrison was trying to establish doubt of rape saying that finding semen on the body did not mean the victim was raped. Harrison also was trying to establish that McCraney asked for a lawyer during questioning but the interrogation continued. Harrison contends McCraney asked for a lawyer 8 times and Lt. Bryan said only once did McCraney was there a lawyer at the location and there was not one.
The prosecution objected that Harrison was badgering Lt. Bryan.
Lt. Bryan testified that McCraney never specifically asked for a lawyer. Harrison asked was McCraney handcuffed for 8 hours. Bryan said McCraney was given bathroom breaks and the chance for a shower and better living arrangements. Harrison quipped that any good interrogator wants a confession.
Harrison contends that Coley McCraney was confined to a room for 25 hours for interrogation. Harrison said interrogators were never able to get a confession.
Lt. Bryan testified the rape charge was based on McCraney denying knowing the girls and never coming forward in the investigation.
OZARK POLICE CHIEF MARLOS WALKER CALLED TO STAND
Chief Marlos Walker testified in August 2018 Ozark Police Department started the genetic genealogy report. Chief Walker testified that samples were sent to Parabon Nanolabs through FEDEX.
Defense Attorney David Harrison attempted to place doubt about the genetic testing technique.
In 1999 Ozark Police Department arrested Johnny Barrentine for the murders of Beasley and Hawlett. The reports in 1999 were that Johnny Barrentine confessed to the murders. Defense Attorney David Harrison asked Chief Walker about that arrest. Chief Walker testified that he is not familiar with that arrest and the details. The same went for Lt. Bryan, he was not familiar with that arrest.
The charges against Barrentine were no billed by a Dale County Grand Jury. While Barrentine was reported to have confessed DNA did not match. There were some issues with Barrentine’s mental state.
Chief Walker said he was called in the Saturday morning after McCraney was arrested because he was not eating. Walker testified that he went to the jail and talked with McCraney. Walker said they talked about sports and he ate a few fries. Chief Walker testified that he knew Walker from their youth.
The prosecution had no questions of Chief Walker.
HEARING ENDED WITH NO MORE WITNESSES
Following the testimony Dale County District Court Judge Stan Garner announced probable cause was established. The case has been bound over to a Dale County Grand Jury.
In Alabama all felonies are presented to Grand Juries. This case has now passed in what I call “no man’s land”.
Once the case is bound over the Grand Jury the District Court has somewhat lost jurisdiction over the case.
Until there is an indictment or no bill by Grand Jury the case is not before a Circuit Court Judge. So the case sits idle until it is presented to a Dale County Grand Jury.
Capital Murder defendants rarely are given a bond. So McCraney will remain in the Dale County Jail until a decision from a Dale County Grand Jury.
Should there be an indictment, and most likely there will be, then the next step will be Arraignment before the Circuit Court Judge assigned.
That arraignment most likely will be done through paperwork in a paper called Plea of Not Guilty and Waiver of Arraignment.
There will be a flood of motions filed in the immediate future. Some are motions because the defense is seeking information. But some are motions for “protection of the record”.
If convicted and the case is appealed, the upper courts look only at the transcripts and record. So a lot a defense attorney does and files in the court are down to protect the record only.
These cases are death penalty cases.