Steven Brydie Michael Bernays Shoofly Shooting trial

Defense attorney Michael Bernays presents his closing arguments during the trial of Steven Brydie.

A jury recently convicted Steven Brydie of negligent homicide in the shooting death of a man at Shoofly Ruins last year.

The jury could have convicted him of second-degree murder, but opted for the lesser charge.

Nonetheless, Brydie wants a new trial — insisting the death was just an accident and the testimony of a key witness was unreliable.

Judge Timothy Wright will sentence Brydie for negligent homicide at 10 a.m., Dec. 18 in a Payson court.

The average sentence for negligent homicide is between one and four years. However, Brydie was on probation for two prior drug felonies at the time of the shooting and so could face an “enhanced” sentence of 15 years.

At that same hearing, Wright will also rule on whether to grant Brydie a new trial.

Brydie’s attorney, Michael Bernays, filed a motion for a new trial on Oct. 28, shortly after a jury found Brydie guilty of negligent homicide in the shooting death of Michael Whitis, Jr., also known as Big Mike.

The state relied on the testimony of Jeffrey Michael Roberts, who witnessed the shooting in a van — along with Kaylie Brown.

Roberts sat next to Whitis in the back of the minivan behind Brydie when the shooting occurred in July of 2018 at the Shoofly Ruins off of Houston Mesa Road.

Several jurors later said they discounted much of Roberts’ often incoherent or inaudible testimony during the 11-day trial in Globe.

However, Bernays said the defense should have had a better chance to cross-examine Roberts and introduce information about his background in light of three post-shooting encounters with police involving drugs and guns.

Last summer, in a 71-day time period, authorities reportedly found methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and guns in Roberts’ possession. Bernays argued these reports disqualify Roberts as a witness because his current drug use indicates Roberts may have been on drugs the day of the shooting. This made “his ability to perceive, recall, and relate the incident in question.”

Bernays also argued Roberts had “bias and motive” to gain “favor” with the state to deflect from “some liability for the …offense.”

“The Court’s ruling precluding Mr. Brydie from delving into these matters deprived him of an essential right to expose possible bias and motive on Mr. Roberts’ part, and to show a lack of the clear mind and memory needed to testify truthfully and accurately in this case,” wrote Bernays. “Mr. Brydie asks the Court to grant the Motion for a new trial, at which this damning cross-examination will be permitted.”

In a hand-written letter to the judge, Brydie assumed his sentencing would move forward.

He had “a few concerns if I happen to be blessed with probation.”

Brydie wrote about Gila County pulling a “trick bag” on him. He explained a trick bag is a “curveball effect on life.”

“Also, let’s be serious, me + probation in Gila County = Catch 22 and more prison time!” wrote Brydie.

Though he has no support in the county, Brydie wrote that his 3-year-old daughter keeps him in the area.

“I’d be a scumbag if I was selfish and jetted off, leaving my only child without a dad and eventually asking questions,” he wrote to the judge.

According to the pre-sentence report from the probation department, “a lengthy term in the Arizona Department of Corrections seems to be most appropriate.”

Brydie has a history of criminal offenses with two prior drug-related felonies on his record, according to the report. The report has concerns over the “increasing seriousness of his crimes.”

Brydie blamed his lack of a “safety net or a good home environment” as reasons he “latched on to negative peers.”

The report concluded the use and/or possession of a deadly weapon that caused “physical, emotional or financial harm” to a victim all while on probation for other crimes, warranted a stay in prison.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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