Banditos Get New Trial Over Fatal Bar Fight

     TACOMA, Wash. (CN) – Four members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang convicted of murder will get a new trial because evidence of their gang affiliation was prejudicial, an appeals court ruled.
     Mike McCreven, Barry Ford, Terry Nolan and Carl Smith were convicted in 2009 of stabbing and beating to death Dana Beaudine during a fight in the Bull’s Eye Sports Lounge parking lot in Spanaway, Wash., after Beaudine allegedly insulted the men’s Hidalgos motorcycle club membership.
     Nolan was also convicted of assaulting Vincent James, who attempted to stop the fight.
     Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that the men had an existing friendship through the Hidalgos club, but they took it a step further by revealing their affiliation with the Banditos, a “notorious motorcycle gang whose members pride themselves on not being law-abiding citizens,” according to the ruling.
     On the night of Beaudine’s murder, Ford wore a button that read “I support the Banditos,” Smith wore a Banditos T-shirt and McCreven’s motorcycle sported a Banditos decal.
     The state showed photos of these items to the jury, but the appellate court’s second division found that the evidence was “irrelevant and unduly prejudicial.”
     Although jurors did not hear specific evidence of the Banditos and their reputation for violence, several jurors acknowledged during voir dire that they knew about the Banditos’ reputation, according to the ruling.
     The three-judge appellate panel reversed the four convictions, vacated each man’s sentence and remanded the case for a new trial on Wednesday.
     “The record shows that despite defense counsels’ exhaustive arguments as to the prejudicial nature of the Bandidos evidence, the trial court did not differentiate between the evidence that the assailants wore Hidalgos ‘colors’ and the codefendants owned Hidalgos emblazoned motorcycle clothing described by the witnesses to the fight and the Bandidos evidence which had no established connection to the fight that left Beaudine dead,” Judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall wrote for the court. “Neither limiting instruction addressed or limited the jury’s consideration of the Bandidos-related evidence.”
     Jurors also were not properly instructed on the definition of self-defense, and portions of the prosecution’s closing argument were improper, the court held.
     “The instructions as a whole did not reflect the correct level of feared injury and thus did not reflect the legal standard of self-defense in this case,” Quinn-Brintnall wrote.
     At trial, the judge also repeatedly overruled defense objections to the state’s closing statement.
     The defendants say that the prosecutor “shifted the burden of proof” during closing arguments by improperly informing the jury that “it need not even consider the court’s instructions.”
     The appeals court agreed on this count as well. “Here, the prosecutor’s misleading comments suggested that the codefendants must first prove self-defense to the jury, and that the State could not disprove the affirmative defense,” Quinn-Brintnalll wrote. “This is not the law in Washington.”
     Since there was also legally sufficient evidence to support the jury verdicts, double jeopardy does not bar retrial, according to the ruling.
     The men are currently in custody. Smith was sentenced to 35 years in prison, McCreven to 22 years, Nolan to 16 years and Ford to 13 years.

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