Retrial denied after second-degree murder conviction

PORT TOWNSEND — A motion for a new trial for a Nordland man convicted of the second-degree murder of a neighbor has been denied.

A jury found John Paul Beckmeyer, 60, guilty of second-degree murder and lesser assault charges on July 1 in the Aug. 25, 2020, fatal shooting of James McDonald, 24, of Nordland; and of second-degree assault with a firearm against Randi Benson and Danielle Boucher, and fourth-degree assault with domestic violence against Boucher.

Richard Davies, public defender with the Jefferson Associated Counsel, represented Beckmeyer during the jury trial and filed the motion for a new trial. He said the jury had not been provided copies of the exhibits submitted as evidence during the trial immediately as they began deliberations.

Physical copies of photos and a thumb drive with video and recordings were provided to the jury more than hour after they started deliberating.

But, Davies said, a piece of wall from Beckmeyer’s fifth wheel, which he was said to have shot through, and the guns used in the guns used in the incident were not brought into the jury room for them to analyze.

Chris Ashcraft, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said all the jurors saw the evidence multiple times during the trial. The wall and guns were not brought into the deliberation room because of safety concerns: the wall contained a window with broken glass, and the jury adhered to social distancing requirements.

“If (the deliberations) had been in this room, it would’ve been an entirely different situation,” Ashcraft said in the Superior Court courtroom before Judge Keith Harper on Friday.

Ashcraft said any additional evidence would’ve been made available to the jury members if they had requested it, but they did not.

He also said the primary question before the jury was if Beckmeyer acted in self-defense and that such deliberations are often short.

“It’s not that unreasonable for the jury to come to a quick deliberation,” Ashcraft said. “(The defense) presented no evidence that he was treated unfairly.

“There’s no indication that he did not have a fair trial.”

Harper agreed with Ashcraft.

“This is easy for me,” he said. “The motion is going to be denied for every reason the prosecution set forth.

“They made a decision. They saw every single exhibit during the trial. He had a fair trial in every respect. The state hits the nails right on the head.”

Beckmeyer’s sentencing, originally set for Friday, was re-scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 20.

He remains in the Jefferson County Jail on $200,000 bail.

Prior to the shooting, McDonald and Benson, both of whom had been living in a house on the property on the 200 block of Griffith Point Road in Nordland with Benson’s grandfather, were barbecuing and drinking alcohol outside with Beckmeyer and Boucher, Beckmeyer’s girlfriend, according to Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies.

Beckmeyer complained to Boucher that her radio was too loud and asked her to turn it down. When she didn’t, he struck her in the face with his hand, and both Benson and McDonald told him not to hit a woman, deputies said.

Beckmeyer walked into the trailer saying he was going to get a gun. McDonald walked into the house and returned minutes later with an open double-barrel shotgun, indicating it could not readily be fired, Ashcraft said during trial.

Seeing McDonald with the gun, Beckmeyer stuck his hand out of the fifth-wheel and fired nine shots; seven went over the two women’s heads and into another trailer, and two struck and killed McDonald, Ashcraft said.

Second-degree murder is a Class A felony punishable by up to life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.

Beckmeyer also was found guilty of second-degree assault with a firearm against Randi Benson and Danielle Boucher, and fourth-degree assault with domestic violence against Boucher.

Second-degree assault is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine, while fourth-degree assault is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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