Ian Howard, the man accused in the 2017 fatal shooting of Lafayette Police Cpl. Michael Middlebrook, has been found competent to stand trial, the officer's mother has posted.
Our media partners at The Advocate attended Wednesday's hearing and posted a story with all the details. You can read it here.
A hearing was set today for a judge to hear testimony from Howard's doctors, who had reported recently that he was competent to stand trial, our media partners at The Advocate reported. At a hearing more than a year ago, doctors had testified that he wasn't mentally well enough to help his attorneys defend him, and a judge sent him to a mental hospital to get treatment.
At that time, the doctors said that they believed he could be well enough to help his lawyers, with treatment.
Today, Middlebrook's mother posted one word on her Facebook page: "Competent!"
Here's the post:
Middlebrook's widow, Adrienne, also posted about the development, stating that "Everything is moving forward, trial dates will be set at the next hearing on May 24th."
Howard was found incompetent to stand trial after a hearing in December 2021. During that hearing, several doctors testified that he wasn't mentally able to assist his lawyers in representing him. Garrett at that time ordered Howard to a mental hospital where he could receive treatment, with the aim being to get him healthy enough to help his lawyers in his defense.
Howard suffers from either schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder and has done for years without any apparent help from the mental health providers he met prior to the October 2017 slaying of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook, according to the testimony of three psychiatrists at the 2021 hearing.
Garrett ruled that Howard was too sick to help his lawyers, and ordered him transported immediately to the state mental hospital in East Feliciana for evaluation and treatment. At the time, the judge ruled that, while Howard did seem to understand the proceedings against him, he was not mentally able to assist his lawyers because his schizophrenia was untreated.
During the 2021 hearing, one of the psychiatrists - who works at that hospital - testified that he believed he could get Howard into a condition that would enable him to assist his lawyers with therapy and medication.
Part of the problem, Garrett ruled in 2022, is that Howard was not receiving treatment for his mental conditions while he's at Hunt Correctional. Testimony indicated that he was given some medication when he arrived, but after he improved it was discontinued. Schizophrenia is not a curable condition, meaning that a couple months of medication doesn't make it go away, the doctors testified. Instead, it's a treatable condition, they testified.
Since Howard wasn't being treated for his mental condition, he was not in a mental position to help in his defense - and that is required by the law, the judge wrote. Therefore, "this court errs on the side of caution after observing the defendant over many proceedings that without his proper medication the defendant cannot fully assist his counsel in this serious offense," she wrote back in 2022.
Howard faces a first-degree murder charge in the slaying of Lafayette Police Corporal Michael Middlebrook, and three attempted first-degree murder charges in connection with the same October 2017 incident.