James Trahan was allegedly shot and killed in April 2008 by Brady Harrington after the son kicked the father’s bedroom door in. The body was subsequently burned and dumped in a river.
Jury selection for Harrington’s trial began in February 2011 but was delayed when he changed his plea from not guilty to insanity.
The case is on the court docket for August.
The son appealed his June 2010 conviction on the basis that evidence was insufficient for such a conviction and that the trial court erred in denying a motion for mistrial.
In evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, a reviewing court must determine whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found proof beyond a reasonable doubt of each of the essential elements of the crime charged.
Additionally, where circumstantial evidence forms the basis of the conviction, the evidence must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence, “assuming every fact to be proved that the evidence tends to prove.”
The court noted that a person may be convicted of an offense even if he has not personally fired the fatal shot. The law of principals states that all persons involved in the commission of a crime, whether present or absent, are equally culpable.
According to the court’s ruling, charges of obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact stemming from James’s murder were dismissed in exchange for Ethan Roy’s testimony. Roy testified that he was with Jordan Uriegas when Uriegas received a call from Brady Harrington.
Harrington allegedly asked Roy and Uriegas to go to the defendant’s residence. The two complied with the request. Defendant, Harrington, Roy, Spencer Music, and Mason Bedgood later left the residence in Roy’s vehicle and went to eat burgers at Krystal in Lafayette.
During the trip, Roy did not hear anyone speak about James, but there was a phone being passed around.
Roy was shown photos of something burning and a body lying in the mud. Music and Bedgood were subsequently dropped off.
After the group returned to Defendant’s residence, Harrington allegedly told Roy that he killed James because he was a nuisance.
Harrington then showed Roy the body, which was wrapped up outside. Roy and Harrington went back into the residence and, the two, along with Uriegas, discussed using Roy’s truck to dispose of the body. Defendant was present during the conversation, but said nothing.
Roy testified that Harrington subsequently tied up the body with extension cords and put it in the back of Roy’s truck. Harrington drove Roy’s vehicle to a secluded area, accompanied by Roy, Uriegas, and Defendant.
Once at the location, Harrington and Uriegas took the body out of the vehicle and threw it over the side of a bridge. The group then went back to Defendant’s residence.
Roy testified that Defendant did not assist in the disposal of the body or try to stop the two.
Once back at Defendant’s residence, the group sat around. Eventually, “they” started falling asleep, and Roy’s father called him to go back to work.
Roy subsequently told his father what had occurred, and his father called the police.
The next day, Roy spoke to police and brought them to the location where the body had been dumped.
Dane Allen was given immunity for his testimony.
He testified that Harrington told him “they” shot James, and, while Defendant cleaned up the room, Harrington burned the body.
Allen also testified that Harrington told him “Paxton kicked in the door and Brady did the work to [sic] him.”
Allen further testified that he helped move the body because Harrington threatened him.
Allen indicated that while he was helping Harrington, Defendant was inside the residence. Allen stated, “I’m not too sure what he was doing. I’m pretty sure he was cleaning up the rest of the room and stuff like that.”
Allen testified that it smelled like bleach, and he had brought bleach to the residence at Defendant’s request a day or two before.
He indicated Defendant needed the bleach to clean up after the dog.
Allen was then questioned as follows:
Q. Did somebody make a request of you to help move the body from the premises?
A. Yes, Brady did and Mason, Jordan, Ethan - - I think that’s about it. I believe that’s it. And they were all there whenever they asked me if I could move it.
I was like, no, you know, I didn’t want to bring it because I already knew about it and I didn’t want to have any more involvement than what I did.
So I just told them no. And I figured they wouldn’t do me anything if somebody - - if more people was [sic] there than just me, Brady and Paxton. So I waited and then - - waited for a little bit and then left the house . . . .
Mason Bedgood was charged with accessory after the fact relating to the murder of James.
That charge was dismissed in exchange for his testimony. Bedgood testified that he first learned that a crime had been committed while on the way back from Krystal with Defendant, Roy, Harrington, Music, and Uriegas. Bedgood testified that Harrington initiated the conversation.
Harrington stated, “Tell them what we done [sic] last night.” “[T]hen they said, ‘We shot J.P.’”
Bedgood did not recall who made this remark. When asked why James was shot, Bedgood testified as follows:
To my understanding, there’s a bunch of different stories right now. But from that night - - there was two (2) different stories that night.
One of them it was because - - I don’t know - - I don’t remember. I know that at one point Paxton was saying that his dad was driving him crazy and everything he had [sic] his dad messed up and expected to live off of him for free and just a bum and everything.
And at one time, he would just get up and go for two (2) or three (3) years and come back and expect to do it again.
Harrington told Bedgood that Defendant kicked in the door, and Harrington shot James.
Bedgood then testified that “[t]hey told me that they went in the room with some bleach or some Clorox . . . and removed all the blood and stuff off the walls and put the body in the back yard with some matches and set it afire.”
He further testified that, “[a] few of them” talked about getting chains and weights, wrapping the body in a blanket, and throwing it over the bridge.
When Bedgood heard this, he requested to be dropped off. Bedgood and Music were subsequently dropped off.
Bedgood testified that Harrington’s phone was passed around in the vehicle, and there were photos on the telephone of something on a bed with blood and a body on fire.
Bedgood was subsequently asked about his statement to police and whether Harrington actually related the events to him.
In response, Bedgood said Harrington was talking and was the leader. Additionally, it was Harrington’s idea to tie up the body and dump it.
Bedgood further testified that Defendant was present and did not say a word when Harrington said Defendant kicked the door in.
Lieutenant Jo Ann Mathiew testified that she interviewed Defendant. During that interview, Defendant stated that two to three nights before the interview, he, Harrington, and James were at his residence.
Defendant and Harrington spoke about James bumming off them, and they were tired of it and upset.
Lieutenant Mathiew also testified that Defendant said he and Harrington talked about killing James.
Further, Defendant stated that there was a shotgun by the door and that Harrington got up and retrieved the shotgun, walked towards the room, and Defendant heard a gunshot.
Harrington returned to the living room and put the shotgun back by the door.
Defendant waited five to ten minutes and then went to see if Harrington had shot James.
He then stated that Harrington had shot James.
Lieutenant Mathiew testified that Harrington and Defendant subsequently went to sleep.
The following day, the two cleaned up the room in which James had been shot.
They took the body, the mattress it had been lying on, and the clothes in the closet to the back yard and tried to burn them.
Roy later helped wrap the body in a blanket, load it, and dump it off Pine Island Road.
They returned to the residence, and Defendant, along with Harrington and Roy, went to sleep.
Defendant stated that he was scared, so he waited to go to sleep until after Harrington had done so.
Defendant indicated he helped Harrington dispose of the body off Pine Island.
In brief to this court, Defendant asserts that Harrington shot James, and the State failed to prove he was a principal to that offense.
The State contends Defendant had countless opportunities to contact police and failed to do so.
His silence was merely an effort to cover up the crime and portray James’s disappearance as a repeat of his having done so in the past.
The State also contends that Defendant’s statement that James was worthless; his speaking openly about his animosity toward and about killing James; his assistance in cleaning the crime scene, burning the body, transporting the body, and dumping the body; his knowledge of James’s disappearance several years prior to the offense and his comments about not missing him then; thinking people would believe James disappeared once again; and, the testimony of witnesses support the jury’s verdict.
“Clearly, the jury believed the testimony indicating that Defendant discussed killing James; he kicked in the door of James’s room; Harrington shot James; Defendant cleaned up the room; during a trip to Lafayette, Harrington told others Defendant kicked in the door of James’s room; and, Defendant rode along when the body was dumped. This evidence supports Defendant’s conviction as a principal to second degree murder,” the court ruled.