A judge in Pima County Superior Court has ruled that the first-degree murder conviction of an Oro Valley man should be thrown out, and a new trial begun.
Judge Clark W. Munger, in a ruling dated May 4, granted a motion for new trial filed by an attorney representing Paul Beam.
"In this case the right to a fair and impartial trial is of such constitutional magnitude, however, that the law requires a retrial," Munger wrote.
On Nov. 25, 2009, Beam, 36, was convicted for killing his girlfriend Lisa Berrie, 25. He was later sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life in prison.
The couple lived in an Oro Valley apartment with Berrie's eight-year-old son from a previous relationship and four-year-old daughter they had together. Both children were home when Beam killed their mother.
At the time of Beam's conviction in February, his attorney, Darlene Edminson-O'Brien, requested a new trial based on information that one of the jurors was dishonest during jury selection.
Along with other jurors, Diane Urquides was asked questions about her personal experiences with violent crime, and specifically domestic violence. While Urquides was truthful in part, telling the court that an uncle had been convicted of murder, she did not reveal that she and her boyfriend had a turbulent relationship and a history of domestic violence.
Between 2001 and 2006, Urquides filed for two orders of protection against her boyfriend. He in turn filed for orders of protection against Urquides on three occasions.
Beam's defense attorney discovered the discrepancy in the juror's answers to pretrial questioning after Beam was convicted of first-degree murder.
"The court finds that Juror Urquides willfully withheld information that a reasonable person would consider highly probative to the issue of fairness and impartiality," Munger wrote.
During the trial, Beam never denied killing Berrie. He admitted that the couple had fought on Aug. 12, 2008, the night he killed Berrie.
An autopsy report and photos shown during the trial revealed that Berrie was badly beaten before she was strangled. Beam said he didn't recall hitting her.
The judge plans to formally vacate Beam's conviction on May 17. A new trial date has not been sent.
In a related issue, Berrie's parents, Marc and Linda Berrie, have filed a claim against Beam, his father Billy Don Beam and his stepmother Georgina Margan-Smith.
The complaint claims that Billy Don Beam, who arrived at the crime scene after his son called him, was at fault for Lisa's death because his attempts to revive Lisa with CPR were done in bad faith.
The Berries seek compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees. Lisa's children are also named as plaintiffs in the suit.