Two state prosecutors who successfully put together the case that saw Mark Becker convicted in the murder of Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas say it was tough waiting out today’s verdict. Becker’s defense said he was insane at the time of the shooting, but Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown argued that Becker knew what he was doing on the June day he shot Thomas to death.
Brown says they did not waiver when jurors initially voted and could not come to a verdict and then deliberations stretched for five days. Brown says they were not “arm chair quarterbacking” what they had done, as he says they had put on their best case. Brown says it was important to focus on the things that Becker did that showed he thought out his actions before and during the shooting.
Brown say he didn’t mention the insanity defense in the initial arguments or in his closing arguments at all because he says they wanted to focus on Becker’s state of mind on June 24th. He says whenever they got the chance they would rebut the insanity defense in their arguments and plug the facts of what Becker did into the defense arguments.
Becker says the insanity defense was something different, but they still had to prove Becker’s actions were planned out. “Obviously his state of mind was the central issue in the case, but it is in almost ever murder case, even if there is not an insanity defense,” Brown says. He says you have to prove things like premeditation and things of that nature to show the state of mind of the defendant, and he says whether it’s an insanity defense or not, it is central to the case.
Becker’s motive for shooting Thomas was not a focus of the case and fellow prosecutor Andrew Prosser says that made it tough for the jury. Prosser says he thinks juries want to know the motive and says Brown told the jury that is not something they had to prove, and says that made it more difficult for the jury. “And obviously this jury had to sort of try to balance the defendant’s mental illness against the legal standard of insanity, and I think they got it right,” Prosser says.
Brown says there was a concern about a hung jury. Brown says he and Prosser have never had a jury out this long and never had a jury deadlock to the point where they had to declare a mistrial. He says while they had not experienced it, their research showed a deadlocked jury was not unheard of. Both Brown and Scott said the best thing about the case was getting to know the Thomas family.