Appeals court upholds Wise County conviction

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, September 21, 2013

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The Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth Thursday upheld a man’s conviction in an April 7, 2010, burglary in rural Wise County.

James R. Biegler Jr. had pleaded guilty to breaking into the home of Jared and Shelly Laaser and taking an array of items that included guns, video game systems, a freezer, televisions, jewelry, a dirt bike, motorcycles, tools, compressors, a washer and dryer.

He opted to let a jury determine his sentence, and got 11 years in prison.

Biegler was arrested in Oklahoma several days after the crime, pulling a trailer which had some of the stolen items in it. Two more trailers were discovered in front of his house in River Oaks, a Fort Worth suburb, which also contained items that could be traced back to the victims’ house.

Wise County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Neagle’s interrogation of Biegler was one of the issues contested in appeal. Biegler’s attorney argued that his client had asked to have a lawyer present and was “baited” into continuing to talk.

The transcript of an exchange between Neagle and Biegler was included in the Appeals Court’s decision as evidence that Neagle fully advised the suspect of his rights and abided by his wishes.

“In Neagle’s first interview … after Neagle read him the required Miranda warnings, [Beigler] did not mention that he wanted an attorney and agreed to give his statement in which he denied any involvement in the burglary. In the second interview, Neagle explicitly told [Beigler] that he was seeking more information on the location of the still-missing property and told him what they had already discovered.

“After Neagle again read [Beigler] the Miranda warnings, [Beigler] considered stopping the interview and consulting an attorney, but he did not clearly and directly do so. In fact, after Neagle told [Beigler] he needed to invoke his right to counsel clearly – “I want it plain right out now whether you want to talk to me anymore without an attorney” – [Beigler] reaffirmed that he wanted to talk to Neagle.”

About 10 minutes later, when Beigler did clearly tell Neagle he wanted to “terminate” the interview, Neagle did.

The court also ruled that the evidence was sufficient, and even though the judge’s charge to the jury contained a statement that was “impermissible” regarding evidence, it did not prejudice the jury’s punishment decision.

The sentence was upheld.

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