BECKER TRIAL: Jury finds Becker guilty - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

BECKER TRIAL: Jury finds Becker guilty

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ALLISON (KWWL) -- After 7 days of testimony and more than 25 hours of deliberation, a Butler County jury has found Mark Becker guilty of 1st degree murder in the shooting of Aplington-Parkersburg football coach and teacher Ed Thomas.

Following the reading of the verdict, the Thomas and Becker families made statements to the media.

"We do feel that justice has been served, and we fell like the system has worked. But, we also want to recognize there really are no winners in this case," Todd Thomas said.

Aaron and Todd Thomas, Ed Thomas' sons, thanked the community for their support over the last eight months. Despite the conclusion of the trial, the Thomas family says the emotions will continue.

"Our family is not over anything. The Becker family is not over anything. We are still going to deal with this daily, as long as we live," Aaron Thomas said.

Joan Becker spoke separately, expressing her sadness over the pain of the Thomas family and the community. She also thanked the jurors for making a difficult decision and said the system failed to help her son deal with a mental illness.

"Our son Mark would never have taken the life of another person in his sane mind. Ed Thomas was a victim of a victim," Joan Becker said.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed the length of jury deliberations meant that all of the evidence was carefully considered.

"One thing I think about the length of it is there's a great amount of integrity in this verdict. It wasn't a quick judgement they made," prosecutor Scott Brown said.

The defense was disappointed with the decision, but supported the process.

"I thought it was a strong insanity claim, but I do think the jury deliberated and gave every consideration to the defense and so they reached a verdict. I believe in the jury system," defense attorney Susan Flander said.

On Friday, jurors sent a note to Judge Stephen Carroll asking what would happen if Mark Becker was found legally insane. Judge Carroll responded that jurors did not need to concern themselves with the potential consequences of their decision. Carroll added the consequences of the verdict is a matter for the court and not for the jury.

The jury's job is simply to decide elements of the case based solely on the law and evidence so not take into consideration what the verdict means, and that's tough," prosecutor Andy Prosser said.

Both sides agreed that Becker was the man that walked into the high school weight room in Parkersburg on June 24, 2009 and shot Thomas.

The defense argued that Becker was innocent due to insanity at the time of the crime. They say he had delusions the night before the murder and believed that Thomas was Satan. Expert witnesses testified for the defense that Becker was not aware of the nature of his actions and outlined a history of mental illness.

The prosecution argued that Becker may have suffered from a mental illness, but say he was not insane at the time of the shooting. They say he stole the .22 caliber gun from his parents' gun cabinet and even practiced shooting the gun on a birdhouse.

The prosecution went on to say that as Becker was looking for Thomas the morning of the shooting, he told people he wanted to talk to Thomas about the Tornado Relief Fund.

A number of students who were in the weight room the morning of the shooting testified that Becker continued to pull the trigger after the gun was empty and then walked over to Thomas as he was laying on the floor and kicked him and cursed at him.

The actual reading of the verdict was delayed Tuesday morning while Aaron Thomas was driving back from Des Moines after testifying before a House committee. Thomas gave his support to a bill requiring hospitals to notify law enforcement when someone with an outstanding warrant is released. Mark Becker was released from a hospital the night before he shot Ed Thomas.

Sentencing on the murder charges will be April 14. The first degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Because of the nature of the case, there will be an automatic appeal after sentencing.

Becker is also accused of vandalizing a home, threatening a Cedar Falls man, and leading police on a chase ending in Butler County just days before Thomas was killed. A trial on those charges is set to begin on April 6.

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