NewsLafayette Parish


Split jury verdict can't acquit Ian Howard, 15th JDC judge rules

Ian Howard mugshot with background.png
Posted at 6:47 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 19:47:25-04

Ian Howard, the man accused of first-degree murder in the 2017 shooting death of a Lafayette police officer and of wounding three others, cannot be acquitted by a split jury, a 15th Judicial District Court judge has ruled.

Howard is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity in two cases: one for three counts of attempted murder, and another for capital murder in the case of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the Middlebrook case.

Howard's lawyers argued that last year's Supreme Court ruling forbidding non-unanimous jury verdicts did not distinguish between convictions and acquittals. They also point out that the state's constitutional amendment doing away with split verdicts applies only to alleged offenses committed after 2018.

In her July 1 decision, Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett found that a verdict is a decision made by jurors and by definition includes both guilty and not guilty decisions.

Garrett further found that the Supreme Court decision in Ramos v. Louisiana does not support the defense's argument that Howard is entitled to his requested special jury instruction. Any allowance for split jury verdicts in state law also has limited impact on the decision in Howard's case, as it applies only to non-capital cases.

Howard's attempted murder trial is scheduled to begin on April 25, 2022, with the capital murder trial to follow. He's next due in court for a motions hearing on July 16, reports The Advocate.

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