Verdict Pain's Victim's Family

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July 24, 2009 3:01am
BY PORTSIA SMITH - THE FREELANCE-STAR

Lesa Atkins buried her head in the shoulder of victim advocate Cindy Gatewood and wept in the darkness outside the Caroline County Circuit Court building Wednesday night.

"He took my dad from me. He took my daddy," she cried out.

Moments earlier, her grief showed as she went into the courtroom to speak with John Wayne Peck, who had just been acquitted of murder in the 2006 shooting death of her father, Jerry Beverly, 61, outside his home in Woodford.
 
"I truly have no hard feelings with you or your family, and I will forgive you one day," she told him. "We just want peace."

Peck, who testified that the shooting was an accident after a day of hunting and drinking, said he wanted the Beverly family to know that he is sorry for their loss.

"I'm still sad for what happened to Jerry," Peck said as a free man. "But I'm glad the jury seen that I was innocent and I told the truth the whole time."

Peck will celebrate his 30th birthday on Sunday.

Peck's lawyer, Jon David, was pleased with the outcome.

"As we've always stated, this was an unfortunate accident," he said. "My condolences go out to the Beverly family. In cases like this, no one really wins."

Commonwealth's Attorney Tony Spencer said this was the first murder case he has lost, and he was stunned by the jury's decision.

"Obviously, I believe that the evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that John Wayne Peck murdered Jerry Beverly, but I also believe in the rule of law and the right to trial by jury," Spencer said in a written statement.

The jury rendered a verdict, and I respect their verdict."

Atkins said yesterday that since the jury has spoken she has to move on. She now lives at her father's house.

"For me, it is the only place I could be, because it's his and I feel so close to him here," she said.

The jury's verdict, delivered after 4-1/2 hours of deliberation, ends the legal ordeal for Peck.

But it doesn't end hard feelings in the community.
As Peck left the courthouse with his family, a car drove by and a male passenger shouted, "Remember my face [expletive]."

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419 
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Commonwealth Attorney Tony Spencer released this statement yesterday:

I invest myself so personally in the cases I try, especially when the charge is murder, and I had never lost a murder case before. When I went home after the trial last night, my mind was filled with so many questions, and I searched my soul and prayed for answers.

I had become close to members of Jerry Beverly's family, and I struggled with whether I had let them down. His daughter, Lesa, had worked so closely with me in seeking justice in this case, as had investigators with the Caroline Sheriff's Office, and I racked my brain with what I might have done differently. The last time I lost a jury trial was in 2003, and I was unaccustomed to second-guessing myself after trials. While my family slept upstairs, I sat in the kitchen and stared blankly at the walls.

Sometime in the early morning, my prayers were answered, and I was delivered from my self-torment. The relentless questioning in my brain finally stopped when my heart was filled with an understanding that, whatever may happen here, justice will ultimately be served.

Obviously, I believe that the evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that John Wayne Peck murdered Jerry Beverly, but I also believe in the rule of law and the right to trial by jury. The jury rendered a verdict, and I respect their verdict. But my heart aches for dear Lesa and the other members of Jerry Beverly's family.