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Appeals court reverses reversal

Appeals court reverses reversal

For now, Beham's 40-year sentence in '13 hotel robbery stands, officials rule

September 15th, 2018 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News

A man who has faced two Bowie County juries in connection with a December 2013 hotel robbery in Texarkana, Texas, was headed for a third punishment trial until Texas' highest criminal court weighed in on the case this week.

Roderick Beham

Roderick Beham

Roderick Beham, 26, was convicted of aggravated robbery by a jury in August 2014 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Beham appealed and in 2015 the 6th Court of Appeals in Texarkana affirmed his conviction but threw out his sentence and ordered a new punishment trial.

In that appeal, Beham successfully argued that the jury shouldn't have heard testimony during the sentencing phase of trial that he had been arrested for, but not convicted of, crimes as a juvenile in another jurisdiction. The officer who testified about the arrests had no personal knowledge of them. A second trial to address only the issue of punishment was held in March 2016.

The second jury to consider Beham's punishment assessed a 40-year prison term, 15 more years than the first. Beham appealed again and in May 2017 the 6th Court of Appeals again ruled in his favor and remanded the case to the trial court to determine punishment.

In the second appeal, the 6th ruled that Facebook photos of Beham posing with drugs, cash and guns while making gestures which appeared to be gang signs shouldn't have been seen by the jury. The 6th's second opinion states that the jury could have been misled to believe Beham is a member of a dangerous street gang when no evidence was presented that he was.

After the 6th's opinion tossing out Beham's 40-year term was issued, prosecutors asked the state's highest criminal appellate court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, to review the case. In an opinion issued Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against the lower appellate court.

"Beham, after all, willingly displayed photographs of himself posing with drugs and pointing a handgun at the camera. Testimony that these materials appeared in context to be celebratory of the gang lifestyle, or at least gang-related, allowed the jury to better understand Beham's decision to promote them," the Court of Criminal Appeals opinion states. "It was, for that reason, normatively relevant to the jury's determination of a proper punishment for Beham's crime of aggravated robbery."

The gang expert who testified at Beham's trial told the jury he had absolutely no information or evidence that Beham was in fact a gang member. The witness testified only that Beham appeared to be "holding himself out" as a member of a violent street gang. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the testimony was relevant to aid the jury in punishment.

The Court of Criminal Appeals has sent the case back to the 6th to address issues raised in the appeal that were not addressed in the 6th's most recent opinion on the case. When the 6th ruled that the testimony was irrelevant it did not address whether it was unfairly prejudicial.

For now, Beham's 40-year sentence remains intact. He is currently being held at the Lewis Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Woodville, Texas. According to TDCJ's website, Beham will be eligible for parole Jan. 3, 2034.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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