DALE COUNTY, Ala (WDHN) — The prosecution and defense have both finished their closing arguments in the murder trial of Coley McCraney and it is now in the hands of the jury.
McCraney is on trial for the 1999 murders of JB Beasley and Tracie Hawlett. He is also accused of raping Beasley. The murders occurred on the night of July 31, 1999. The teens were found shot to death the next day in the trunk of Beasley’s Mazda 929 on Herring Avenue in Ozark. The case went cold for 20 years until DNA evidence found on Beasley allegedly matched to McCraney.
He is charged with four counts of capital murder.
The prosecution, represented by Jimmy Thomas with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, started. Thomas began by reminding the jury what the case was about and recounted what occurred the night of July 31, 1999.
“At the beginning of this case, we told you this was a case of capital murder. We now know the defendant (McCraney) committed multiple counts of capital murder when he raped Beasley and when he put Beasley and Tracie Hawlett in the back of Beasley’s car and shot them both. It is clear that this defendant shot these girls because he didn’t want to be responsible for raping JB,” Thomas told the jury.
The prosecution claims that on July 31, 1999, the girls got lost heading to a field party in Headland and ended up at a gas station in Ozark. After calling Hawlett’s parents to extend their curfew, Beasley and Hawlett were approached by McCraney, who was armed with a 9mm. handgun, and ordered both girls into the car and drove him to a second location where McCraney raped Beasley, put both girls into the trunk of Beasley’s Mazda and executed them, and then drove the car to Herring Avenue where he abandoned it and walked home, according to the prosecution.
Thomas also touched on McCraney’s wife, Jeanette McCraney, who took the stand on Friday and testified she remembered what her husband, then-boyfriend, was wearing that night and recalled that he was completely clean when he arrived home.
“Amazing she could remember this over twenty years later,” Thomas said
Thomas flashed forward twenty years to 2019 when McCraney was arrested after DNA evidence found on Beasley allegedly matched McCraney.
“The Ozark Police Department had finally gotten their man,” Thomas said.
Before taking a seat, Thomas told the jury to think about two questions when the defense, led and represented by attorney David Harrison, starts their closing arguments.
“Number 1, does his (David Harrison) argument make sense? Number 2, is it supported by evidence?” Thomas asked the jury.
Harrison took the floor and immediately began repeating the same question he brought up during opening statements, “Where’s the evidence?”
Harrison pointed out to the jury that former state investigator Barry Tucker said during his testimony last week that he found none of McCraney’s fingerprints on the car or at the scene where the car was found.
Harrison also told the jury that every forensic scientist who took the stand last week testified that the DNA evidence found on Beasley does not prove McCraney raped Beasley or killed either of the girls.
“I don’t have the burden of proof. The state does and they have no proof,” Harrison said.
The defense brought up large cue cards to prove Harrison’s point. The first one said: “No confession, no motive, no fingerprints, no rape, no gun, no video, no audio, no crime scene, +eyewitness alibi, = not guilty,”
Harrison said, “If there’s doubt and it’s reasonable, you have to acquit him. I just have you doubt you can’t argue with. Don’t let the state of Alabama hypnotize you into a guilty verdict,”
On Friday, McCraney himself took the stand and says he and Beasley had planned to meet at the Ozark gas station at 10:00 p.m. on July 31, 1999, and when she was late, he went to his mother’s house to wait on a call from Beasley but never received one.
According to McCraney, after leaving his mother’s house at around 11:30 p.m. to head home, his alternator gave out and broke down at the same gas station where he finally saw Beasley and Hawlett at a pay phone. McCraney says after talking to Beasley for a few minutes, he got in Beasley’s car and gave the girls directions to Highway 231, after which they stopped at another gas station next to the highway where his semi-truck was parked and he and Beasley had sex in the cab in his truck.
McCraney testified that after he and Beasley had consensual sex, the girls drove him to his house at around 12:45 and they went their separate ways.
After a short break, the prosecution was given a chance to rebuttal, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall took the floor.
Marshall compared the crime, investigation, and evidence to a puzzle.
“Mr. Thomas gave you the individual pieces to show you the complete picture of what happened,” Marshall said.
Marshall also told the jury that his team has never asked them to assume anything and even though there are no eyewitnesses to the crimes, the forensics and evidence tell a story.
“The only two eyewitnesses, in this case, are dead. They saw with horror in their eyes that they were about to lose their lives,” Marshall said.
The Attorney General also called McCraney’s story into question, saying McCraney originally told investigators after his 2019 arrest that he never knew or met the girls, but on the stand, McCraney said he had actually known Beasley almost two months before the murders took place.
Marshall touched on a personal note, showing the jury the senior portraits of Hawlett and Beasley.
“The only truth in this case, ladies and gentlemen, is a verdict of guilty,” Marshall said.
During closing arguments, the courtroom was filled with interested onlookers, law enforcement, media, and the families of both McCraney and the victims.
The jury will now deliberate and is expected to come back with a final verdict in the case of Coley McCraney.