A federal appellate court ruled that a man serving life in prison for killing his pregnant girlfriend – and her unborn child – is not due relief from trial convictions of first-degree murder and third-degree murder.
Matthew S. Becker was sentenced in 2013 to life in prison, plus a consecutive 20-to-40-year term, for shooting Allison Walsh in the head at a Manheim area home on Aug. 12, 2011.
Becker, now 31, has appealed previously in local and state courts, and was denied relief.
A United States District Court last week issued a lengthy opinion finding the previous denials of appeal were appropriate.
Becker’s appeal includes arguments that his statements to police should not have been allowed at trial, and that jurors should not have heard testimony from his ex-girlfriend and an acquaintance who witnessed abuse from Becker to Walsh.
Regarding the statements:
- Becker told police he shot Walsh accidentally, and that the gun went off after he removed a magazine from the gun. Becker argued his statements to police were not obtained appropriately and that he was denied access to an attorney during questioning.
Police found the gun used in the shooting would not have fired without a magazine in it, meaning Becker pointed the gun at Walsh when it was loaded with a magazine.
The federal court found that Becker made ambiguous statements about being done with the interview; he never requested an attorney.
Regarding testimony from Becker’s ex-girlfriend:
- Becker argued the woman’s testimony should not have been allowed because it happened too far in the past. The woman testified Becker had pointed a handgun at her and shot her on numerous occasions with a BB gun.
The appellate courts found that testimony was relevant and showed Becker’s intent.
Regarding testimony from the acquaintance:
- Becker argued Gregory Miller came forward with information too late in the process: after jury selection had already began. Miller contacted the District Attorney’s Office during jury selection and prosecutors immediately notified the court and Becker’s attorneys.
Miller testified that he witnessed Becker act cruelly and abusive toward Walsh, threatened to pistol whip her, and called her various slurs. The appellate courts found that testimony was relevant because it rebutted Becker’s characterization of his relationship with Walsh.
Pennsylvania State Police investigated the shooting, with Trooper Chad Roberts filing charges.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman won the trial convictions.
First Deputy District Attorney Travis S. Anderson represented the Commonwealth in the post-conviction litigation in state and federal court.
To be granted relief from a federal court, it must be determined that a state court’s denial of appeal was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
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