The new documentary series on A&E, Accused: Guilty or Innocent, explores a case from the perspective of the accused, including their defense, trial and verdict. As the network explains, it’s “an intimate account of what happens when someone is formally charged with a crime and sent to trial,” but from the perspective of the accused, their family and the defense team.
The series premieres on April 21 with the first episode, “Wife Killer or Self Defense?” The episode explores the case of Bryan Steven Lawson, who shot and killed his wife Beth ‘Chandra’ Lawson on January 27, 2017. The entire incident is caught on cameras the couple had installed in their home, and there is no doubt that Lawson shot and killed his wife. What the episode, and the case, explore is whether it was murder or self-defense.
Here’s what you need to know about Bryan Steven Lawson and Beth ‘Chandra’ Lawson:
1. Chandra Was Born on November 16, 1976 & Served in the Tennessee Army National Guard
Chandra Beth Lawson was born on November 16, 1976, in Church Hill to parents Avery Ann Charles Williams and Gwen Ethridge. According to her obituary, she had a brother, Clay Williams and two stepsisters, Rachel Morgan and Rebekah Ethridge. Chandra graduated from Christian Life Academy and went to East Tennessee State University and Lincoln Memorial University.
Chandra served in the Tennessee Army National Guard from 2006 to 2012. In the docu-series, the producers explained that she was unable to deploy on military tours because she broke her neck during training. Her obituary explained that after her death, she received military honors by the Tennessee Army National Guard and the Hawkins County Color Guard.
2. Chandra Had 2 Sons, Liam & Bradyn, From 2 Different Relationships
Chandra had two sons, Liam Windham and Bradyn Lawson, from two relationships. Liam was 17 at the time of Chandra’s death and Bradyn was just over two years old. Liam is Chandra’s son from a prior relationship, whereas Bradyn was born when Bryan and Chandra were together. The episode explores that after the shooting, Bryan found out that Bradyn wasn’t his biological son.
Both children were living with the couple at the time of Chandra’s death, although Liam had left for school before the shooting happened. The video footage of the shooting shows that Bradyn was right beside his mother when Bryan shot her three times with a handgun.
According to a Tennessee news site, in 2019 Liam was a college student and the 4-year-old Bradyn was the subject of a custody battle. His time was shared between Chandra’s mother and his biological father, who is not named. It’s unclear at this time who has custody over the young boy.
3. The Entire Sequence of Events Was Captured on Video Surveillance
The Lawsons had installed video cameras throughout their home, which meant that the shooting was entirely captured on video. It shows not only the moment when Bryan shoots his wife three times with their son standing there, but it also shows a domestic dispute in the hour before the shooting.
During the dispute, which is shown in full during the Accused: Guilty or Innocent? episode, Chandra is seen grabbing a baseball bat and threatening Bryan with it multiple times. Viewers can also see her striking him many times with her hand. Bryan retrieved the handgun from behind the couch when Chandra leaves the room for a few minutes to get their son.
4. Bryan Is Serving His Sentence at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility
Bryan Steven Lawson was born on July 5, 1983. According to his Tennessee inmate record, he is 6’3″ and weighs 375 pounds. His status is listed as incarcerated at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility under a medium supervision level.
He was sentenced to 15 years beginning on January 27, 2019, ending on September 13, 2033. He will be eligible for parole on September 13, 2021. The offense listed is Voluntary Manslaughter.
5. Bryan Pleaded Guilty on February 1, 2019, Instead of Going to Trial
Bryan decided to take a plea deal instead of going to trial for the case. If he had gone to trial, he could have been convicted of first-degree murder and faced life in prison without parole, Times News explained. The plea deal agreed by both parties was that Bryan would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter with 15 years sentence, a longer sentence than usual for a first-time offender. Instead, the prosecution and the defense agreed that he would be eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of his sentence instead of the usual 30 percent.
He also pleaded guilty to felony reckless endangerment because of the proximity of the shooting to the couple’s two-year-old son. Chandra’s other son, Windham, told the Times News that he’s forgiven Lawson, but many in his family have not. He said, “When he is released, he will have to live with that and live with the guilt for the rest of his life. I think that’s punishment enough.”