Maryland millionaire seeks new trial over man's death in secret bunker fire
May 09, 2019 at 3:00 PM
ROCKVILLE — A wealthy stock trader is seeking a new trial after his murder conviction in the fiery death of a man who was helping him secretly dig tunnels for an underground nuclear bunker beneath a Maryland home.
Daniel Beckwitt's attorneys asked a Montgomery County judge on Monday to schedule a hearing for their written request for a new trial. The judge and prosecutors didn't immediately respond to their request.
Beckwitt's lawyers argue the evidence presented to jurors was insufficient "as a matter of law" to support his convictions. The evidence didn't prove Beckwitt was the "responsible party" who put Khafra "in a situation that was causally related to his death," they wrote.
"There were other reasonable hypotheses as to how the victim ended up dying in the fire," they added.
Defense attorneys claim prosecutors improperly used photographs of extreme hoarding conditions in Beckwitt's suburban Washington home. Prosecutors also improperly influenced jurors by repeatedly displaying images of Khafra's charred body and presenting evidence of Beckwitt's wealth, the lawyers argued.
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Beckwitt went to elaborate lengths to keep the project a secret. Jurors heard that he tried to trick Khafra into thinking they were digging the tunnels in Virginia instead of Maryland by having him don "blackout glasses" before taking him on a long drive. They also were told Beckwitt used internet "spoofing" to make it appear they were digging in Virginia.