A Talladega County jury of eight men and six women was selected Monday to try a Goodwater man charged with capital murder stemming from an incident in 2015.
Austin Shane Bonner, 22, is accused of fatally shooting Joshuwa Ira Bearden, 35, inside Bearden’s truck on Settlement Road near Sylacauga on Oct. 1, 2015. Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens recused his office from prosecuting the case to avoid the appearance of a conflict, so the case is being prosecuted by Marcus Reid and Brynn Crane from the Etowah County DA’s office.
The state is not seeking the death penalty in this case, Crane told potential jurors Monday. If convicted of capital murder, Bonner would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Crane also said that Bonner’s grandfather was a reserve deputy, who also owned a gun shop specializing in after-market modifications to firearms.
Bonner is being defended by attorney Jon Adams, who indicated to potential jurors Monday that he would be arguing that his client acted in self-defense as the case moves forward. He also said the fatal incident may have involved a domestic situation, an argument that escalated and a rush to judgement on the part of the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the case.
At the time of his death, Bearden worked for Nemak in Sylacauga, but was perhaps better known as a musician. Known as “The One-Man Band,” he played bass, guitar, banjo, fiddle and harmonica while also playing drums at the same time.
As the result of an investigation by the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, a warrant was issued for Bonner’s arrest. He turned himself about two weeks after Bearden’s death, posted a $100,000 bond and was released.
The case was presented to a Talladega County grand jury the following fall, and Bonner was indicted on a capital murder charge in November 2016. The grand jury determined that the aggravating circumstance making this a capital case, rather than a simple murder case, was that Bearden was killed with a firearm while inside a vehicle.
When the charge went from murder to capital murder, Bonner’s bond was increased from $100,000 to $150,000, but again he posted bond and was released pending trial.
Both sides are expected to present opening arguments this morning. The case, which is being tried in Circuit Judge Chad Woodruff’s courtroom, is expected to go to the jury late this week.