Opening Statements in Michael Beard Trial Made Hours After Jury Selection

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The first trial in the death of Kelley Clayton official began on Tuesday shortly after jury selection finished. Both sides in the trial of Michael Beard made their opening statements on Tuesday afternoon.

The prosecution’s opening statement lasted for exactly one hour, meanwhile the defense’s opening statement lasted under five minutes.

Michael Beard is facing murder charges in the death of Kelley Clayton, along with two other men; Mark Blandford of Elmira, and Kelley’s husband Thomas Clayton.

Beard’s trial is the first of the three men charged in what the prosecution says is a murder-for-hire plot in which they allege Thomas Clayton hired Beard to kill his wife, Kelley.

Special prosecutor and Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore began his statement by painting a picture for the jury of what he says happened the night of Sept. 29, 2015 in the Clayton’s Caton home.

Wetmore discussed the DNA and circumstantial evidence gathered by the prosecution which he says pinpoints Beard as Kelley Clayton’s murderer. Wetmore also discusses how Beard confessed to police about killing Kelley, and how Beard also showed police where the murder weapon was.

The prosecution also discussed how Beard told police Clayton offered him $10,000 to kill Kelley days before the crime occurred.

Wetmore says it’s that type of factual evidence which will point to Beard as Kelley’s murderer, as there’s no witnesses to the alleged crime, and show the initial confession from Beard to police was not false.

The defense presented its opening statement directly after the prosecution, however its statement lasted less than five minutes.

During that time, the defense said Beard did enter the home the night of Sept. 29, 2015. However, the defense claims Beard was hired by Thomas Clayton to burn down the home for insurance money. Beard’s defense says he was told the home would be empty at the time. And when he went in to burn it down, he discovered Kelley’s body and heard children upstairs, so he left.

The defense also claims Beard was pushed into confessing to police that he killed Kelley Clayton, they say Beard was also fearful his wife may have also been arrested if he didn’t confess, or keep his story.

The jury is comprised of eight men, and four women, with three male alternates.

The trial continues tomorrow, Wed. Oct 26. Stay with 18 News on the air and online for the latest in the trial.

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