Jury Finds Peck Not Guilty

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September 27, 2009
By Toni Stinson - The Caroline Progress

After three days of emotional testimony, the jury for John Wayne Peck's murder trial began their deliberations on July 22. The panel of nine women and three men would take more than four hours to arrive at their verdict: not guilty on all charges. When Circuit Court Clerk Ray Campbell read the verdict after 10:00 p.m. that evening, emotions erupted in the courtroom on both sides of the aisle. Peck sobbed embracing his attorney Jonathan David and repeated, "Thank God, oh thank God."

Jerry Beverly's family and Commonwealth's Attorney Tony Spencer seemed stunned by the jury's decision. Some of Jerry Beverly's family members rushed out of the courtroom. "If I was from Caroline, I would hang my head in shame tonight," said Jerry Beverly's sister Annette Jones.

Peck maintained that killing Jerry Beverly was an accident and that he panicked after the shooting, throwing his pistol in the Ni River before turning himself in to authorities later that night. Alcohol was a factor in the shooting, with both Peck and Beverly drinking whiskey earlier that afternoon. In statements Peck made to police and on the witness stand during the last day of the trial, he admitted to drinking as much a s pint of whiskey that day.

Prosecutor Tony Spencer said in a written statement following the trial that he felt key evidence was excluded from the trial. "It's frustrating as a prosecutor to possess information that I cannot share with the jury under the rules of evidence," Spencer said in the statement.

"In this case, I had solid evidence that, at the time he shot and killed Jerry Beverly, John Wayne Peck and his best friend, who was a witness for him at trial, were heavily involved in the area with cocaine and crystal meth. I also had solid evidence that Jerry Beverly hated drugs, that he was reporting suspected drug activity in the area to the police, and that, in the weeks before Peck shot him, Jerry Beverly was telling his friends and family that he knew too much and that someone was going to kill him," Spencer stated.

Spencer said he was not allowed to present any of this evidence to the jury. Despite his belief that the evidence showed Peck's guilt, Spencer believes firmly in the rule of law and a trial by jury.

"The jury rendered a verdict, and I respect their verdict. But my heart and prayers go out to Jerry Beverly's dear daughter, Lesa, and the other members of his family."

According to a police representative, as Peck left the court facility Wednesday night, he spoke with bailiffs about getting his guns returned to him now that the trial was over.

Family members of both Beverly and Peck declined to comment for this story.