PHOENIX, AZ (September 3, 2013) – Nearly six years after a road rage incident that escalated into a fatal shooting, a Maricopa County jury delivered guilty verdicts today against John Chester Stuart (D.O.B. 6/21/1962) for one count each of Second Degree Murder and Drive By Shooting. A previous effort to prosecute Stuart resulted in a mistrial in November, 2011 after an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict. He now faces a possible term of up to 43 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.
“Although this defendant attempted to justify his actions by claiming self-defense, this jury was able to apply the important distinction Arizona law makes between the legitimate and illegitimate use of deadly force,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “While nothing will ever fully assuage the grief felt by the victim’s family and friends for the loss of their loved one, today’s result at least provides a measure of justice for a senseless act of violence,” he added.
Late in the evening of January 29, 2008, Phoenix Police responded to a shooting call near the intersection of Tatum Boulevard and Pinnacle Peak Road where they found Thomas Beasley lying in the street with a gunshot wound to the face. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
Investigating officers learned that Beasley and his wife had been driving west on Pinnacle Peak Road when a vehicle behind him crossed the double yellow line and passed his car at a high rate of speed. When both vehicles were stopped at a red light at the intersection of Tatum Boulevard, John Stuart, who was driving the other vehicle, rolled down his window and made an obscene gesture to Beasley and his wife. The two men exchanged verbal insults and Beasley got out of his car. Stuart then pulled his vehicle in front of Beasley’s car. Witnesses reported seeing Beasley approach Stuart, who remained seated in his car, and yelling at Stuart. Stuart then shot Beasley once in the face and drove away. Witnesses followed Stuart to his residence and saw him and a female passenger get out of his car and then leave in two separate vehicles. He was taken into custody a short time later and subsequently indicted for Second Degree Murder and Drive By Shooting.
The case against Stuart encountered lengthy delays due to the appointment and withdrawal of multiple defense attorneys and numerous pre-trial motions filed by Stuart, who represented himself for part of the proceedings. The first trial lasted 29 days before a mistrial was declared. The jury in the second trial deliberated for eight hours over three days before finding Stuart guilty on both counts. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 24, 2013 by the Honorable Sherry Stephens.