Read previous coverage on this case:
- Cowart Murder Trial Off to Rocky Start Over Evidence, Juror Kinship Issues
- Another Bulloch Murder Case in Limbo Due to Mishandling of Evidence by District Attorney’s Office
- Attorney Says Cowart Shot Beasley in Self Defense
- Judge Seals His Decision on Immunity in Cowart Murder Case
On day three of the murder trial for Dustin Leigh Cowart, who is charged with the shooting death of Ray “Buddy” Beasley, Jr, Cowart took the stand to tell the jury about the night he and Beasley met to settle a dispute.
Jurors Can’t Hear Evidence on Toxicology Reports of Beasley
Before jurors were brought in Thursday, the state brought up a concern about testimony and evidence the defense was slated to introduce: the toxicology reports of Buddy Beasley.
Assistant District Attorney Ben Edwards told the court that the toxicology report was only admissible if the defense proffered evidence that the drug and/or alcohol use did affect the behavior of the deceased. He said no such evidence had been presented.
Defense attorney Matt Hube argued that the toxicology reports and the subsequent testimony from GBI Crime Lab toxicologists was sufficient to testify about the euphoria and possible aggression a person would experience with both a BAC of 0.176 and the presence of amphetamines and sertraline, better known as Zoloft. Hube contended that, at a minimum, it was evidence connected to the impeachment of two state witnesses who testified that they did not notice any indications of impairment of Beasley.
“The report reads that whether the amphetamine were prescribed legally or illegally, the effects would be the same,” Hube told the court, citing nervousness, aggressiveness, agitation, lessened inhibitions, and a heightened willingness to take risks as manifestations of the combination.
The defense then presented two GBI toxicologists who testified to their findings about the presence of alcohol and other substances. The first, GBI Toxicologist Kacey Wilson, testified on the 0.176 BAC while the second, GBI Toxicologist Denise Carter, testified that a 70 microgram per Liter reading for a prescription like Adderall was on the ‘higher end’ of the therapeutic scale of 20 to 100 micrograms per liter.
Both contended that alcohol and amphetamines could have a synergistic effect on a person, amplifying the effects. “Instead of 1+1=2, it would be 1+1=5,” Carter told the court. Wilson similarly told the court that while some manifestations could be hidden, things like a staggering gait, slurred speech, and being drowsy or dizzy could not.
But ultimately, Judge Michael Muldrew said the reports and testimony only suggested what could or may happen with the substances and that alcohol impacts everyone differently. He contended that the toxicologists were not with Beasely specifically and had no knowledge of how the substances impacted him. He denied the defense’s request to introduce the evidence or the testimony to the jurors.
Hube called the standard ‘impossible,’ saying no toxicologist would ever be with an individual in the minutes or hours leading up to their death.
Citing the court’s ruling, Hube asked for a brief recess to confer with Cowart.
Cowart Takes the Stand
Around 10:40 am Cowart took the stand to detail his own health issues, the tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife, Kacie Mallard, and what happened between him and Buddy Beasley the night of October 27, 2020.
Decline of Marriage & Health
His testimony began with the decline of both his marriage and his health in 2015 and 2016. Cowart admitted he had a heavy drinking problem that ultimately resulted in a liver transplant in 2016 due to liver disease. “Looking back, I was the cause [of the marriage falling apart], ” Cowart told jurors. He also said Mallard told him if he quit drinking, they could stay together for their daughter, a promise he held on to on his journey to sobriety and through his liver transplant. He said, in his opinion, Mallard did not keep her word and on the night he went to meet with Beasley, he wanted him to understand why he was angry and sent the messages he did.
Relationship with Mallard Post-Divorce
Cowart testified about the text messages he sent to Mallard over the course of three or four years before the incident, admitting that, at times, he made threats and was harassing. He told jurors he made the statements to Mallard in an attempt to ‘piss her off’ and ‘get under her skin.’
Cowart also told jurors that he did often send angry messages to Mallard but that their texts contained a great deal of co-parenting related communication during the same time period. He emphasized that his visitation and time with their minor daughter only increased, despite the messages he would send, going from a few hours a week in 2018 to three to four days a week with overnight stays by the time of the incident.
The texts about being ‘almost in f***ing kill mode,’ Cowart said didn’t have any meaning other than to ‘piss her off,’ and that he was referencing himself more than anyone. “I was in a state of depression, I didn’t have any intent of killing anyone,” Cowart said, “I sent those messages for a long time. I never followed through on anything.”
[Read about the messages sent from yesterday’s coverage here]
The Night of the Shooting
Cowart said Beasley reached out to him earlier in the evening on October 27 and told him to ‘leave Kacie alone.’ Cowart said Beasley also tried to call him, but he didn’t answer. “I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t know what to expect in the phone call,” he told jurors.
Eventually the two did communicate and Cowart said he acknowledged he would respect Beasley’s wishes. Beasley suggested they meet, telling him to name a time and place, to which Cowart said ‘Rocky Ford Road and Mixon Road.’ Cowart told jurors he chose that location because it was further away from the Mallard’s property and the person on the corner of that road was a co-worker. “It was not near their house and it was a neutral spot.” He said he considered Kacie Mallard’s family an extension of Buddy’s at that time because of their engagement.
Cowart said he and Mallard were texting simultaneously to Beasley and Cowart texting and he initially planned on staying home. He said Beasley told him ‘I’m here’ but Cowart was still at his house with his grandmother. He said he wasn’t planning on going at all, but that Mallard sent a message about ‘being a p***y’ who wouldn’t ‘take the ass whoopin’ for what he did. “I didn’t want to seem like less of a man,” he testified.
Cowart said the two talked for about fifteen minutes with Beasley, at times, showing anger and agitation. “He aggressively came up to the truck and was within arm’s reach of the door. He kept telling me we could handle this ‘the old fashioned way.’ Cowart said he kept trying to talk Beasley down, and eventually did, so he could explain why he did what he did. He also said he apologized to Beasley for the texts and reiterated he would leave Mallard alone.
But at some point, when Cowart thought the conversation was nearly over, he said Beasley got a different look on his face and saw his demeanor change. “He got a mean look on his face, he turned and faced me and leaned in and reached into the truck. He pointed his finger at me and almost poked me in the eye. I leaned back further and he said, “Don’t let this f***ing sh*t happen again.”
Cowart said he replied, “Don’t put your f***ing finger in my face.” At that point, he said Beasley slapped Cowart’s hand away and had a grip on his arm with both hands. He says Beasley was jerking him around and he was concerned Beasley was going to try to yank him out of the truck.
It was at that point, Cowart grabbed a weapon that was between his seat and center console, which Beasley lunged for, trying to snatch it from Cowart, he said.
“I fired it twice… in a row… because I was scared for my life…I thought he was going to beat me to death. And I almost lost grip of the gun.” Cowart reenacted his own body movements for jurors, demonstrating how he was positioned throughout the conversation and at the point of escalation.
He told jurors he called 911 and remained on the phone with them until they arrived, but went into the house on the corner, at the direction of his co-worker, when the Mallards showed up on scene. He said when they placed him in handcuffs at the time of their arrival, he was still on the phone with 911.
Hube asked Cowart if he had any regrets.
I’m sorry this happened. I’m sorry I ever went out there. I’m sorry I texted her those hurtful things…I’m sorry their family lost anyone. It’s really said,” Cowart said tearfully.
ADA Edwards did not pose many questions and only reiterated the messages sent by Cowart to Mallard the day before the shooting.
At times, he was only reading the messages to the jurors once again, as opposed to asking any questions of Cowart.
Jurors will hear closing arguments after lunch before they begin deliberations. They will consider the following charges:
Count 1: Malice Murder
Count 2: Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony
Count 3: Felony Murder
Count 4: Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony
Count 5: Aggravated Assault
Count 6: Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony