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Final Words of Milwaukee Homicide Victim Properly Admitted at Trials as "Dying Declarations," says Wisconsin Court of Appeals


MADISON - This morning, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld Marvin L. Beauchamp's Milwaukee County 2006 conviction for first-degree intentional homicide while armed.  In so doing, the court of appeals held that the trial court judge properly admitted, as "dying declarations," the victim's statements that Beauchamp had shot him. 


Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the Court of Appeals, praised the decision.  "As he lay dying, Mr. Somerville identified Beauchamp as his killer," said Van Hollen.  "He helped bring his killer to justice.  I'm pleased that the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the admission of this powerful, incriminating evidence." 


While receiving medical treatment for five gunshot wounds, Beauchamp's victim Bryon T. Somervilletold an emergency medical technician and a Milwaukee police officer that Beauchamp had shot him.  Beauchamp sought to exclude this evidence at his trial, arguing that it constituted inadmissible hearsay and deprived him of his constitutional rights to confrontation.  The trial court judge admitted the evidence, and the Court of Appeals upheld that decision.  The Court of Appeals concluded that Somerville's statements qualified as "dying declarations," a recognized exception to both the hearsay rule and the right to confrontation. 


From the Court of Appeals's decision: 


In light of the circumstances surrounding Somerville's injuries, his frantic concern that he not die as expressed to [EMT] Coleman, his being upset when the ambulance passed one hospital on its way to another, and his significant pain and breathing difficulties, coupled with his spontaneous repeated assertions as to who shot him, the trial court did not erroneously exercise its discretion in ruling that Somerville's fingerings of Beauchamp as his shooter were dying declarations under WIS. STAT. RULE 908.045(3) irrespective of whether Somerville implicated Beauchamp before or after he may have heard the physician's assessment of the blood analysis. 


The Court of Appeals also concluded that the trial court judge properly admitted statements given to police by witnesses who later testified inconsistently at trial. 


The Wisconsin Court of Appeals's decision in State of Wisconsin v. Marvin L. Beauchamp, No. 2009AP806-CR, appears on the court's website:


Marvin L. Beauchamp remains incarcerated at the Green Bay Correctional Institution in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 


The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Beauchamp in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.  Assistant Attorney General Maura F.J. Whelan represented the State of Wisconsin in the Court of Appeals.