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052218-nws-pheasant

Brian Pheasant is escorted to the Franklin County Courthouse on Monday, May 21 in Benton.

BENTON — Brian Pheasant, the man convicted in May of killing his wife, has filed a motion for a new trial, which will be heard Friday.

Pheasant was charged in 2016 with the Halloween death of his wife, Beth Pheasant. During the trial, Pheasant claimed he had been attempting to kill himself in front of his wife over their pending divorce. He said he never owned or operated a handgun before and that he accidentally fired the newly-purchased Springfield 9mm twice, killing Beth.

The jury believed the state’s claims that Brian planned the killing and convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder and added a firearm enhancement to the crime.

Through nine pages, Pheasant’s attorney Paula Newcomb details several reasons to grant a new trial.

In the first, she said the defense’s motion for a directed verdict should have been granted as the state, in her opinion, had not provided sufficient evidence to convict Pheasant of first-degree murder.

In the second, she said that the state’s presentation of scores of crime scene photos was prejudicial and was not in line with an April motion hearing regarding crime scene photos. Newcomb claimed that the images provided during the motion hearing were far fewer than those presented at trial.

Further, Newcomb also said the images presented in trial were prejudicial for the jury and, at times, not accurate. She said the criminal pathologist testified that the way the body was arranged on the floor in the photographs did not present an accurate image of bullet trajectory.

Newcomb also took issue with the use of cellphone records and data as evidence. In her June 20 motion, she wrote that there was insufficient foundation presented in trial to admit the records into evidence — the state only presented portions of the nearly 8,000 pages of records. This, she claimed, created problems for considering the third party calls as evidence, as without proper foundation they become hearsay.

She also wrote that the admittance of text messages and phone calls from Beth Pheasant to Brian Pheasant was inappropriate.

“There was no way to cross-examine the text messages and the alleged maker was unavailable,” she wrote.

Newcomb also contends that the state’s closing arguments were improper. She said that the state falsely claimed that the criminal pathologist deemed Pheasant’s death a homicide. Newcomb said it was more complicated than that as the witness said it was not a homicide in the “criminal or legal sense of the word.”

She also took issue with the fact that the state made reference to Pheasant’s family — reminding the jury she was a mother — which she wrote was against protocol for closing arguments, citing case law.

The motion will be argued at 1 p.m. Friday. Pheasant is scheduled for sentencing at 1 p.m. July 27.

Family of Christopher woman slain by husband remember loving mother, daughter, friend

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Reporter

Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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