Wendy Howard’s trial raises ‘uncommon’ authorized questions
Dec. 3—Ink and headlines unfold throughout pages and screens for Wendy Howard’s verdict after jurors acquitted her of first- and second-degree homicide however deadlocked on voluntary manslaughter.
After a hung jury, the Kern County District Lawyer’s Workplace might retry Howard for voluntary manslaughter, and a listening to was held Friday to find out Howard’s destiny. Through the 10-day trial, Howard testified that he shot his ex-partner Kelly Pitts in self-defense after she sexually and bodily abused him and her kids. Prosecutors stated he sought revenge and was “cautious” when he was killed.
However then protection legal professional Tony Lidgett stated throughout the listening to that Howard was certainly acquitted of every cost, and that prosecutors couldn’t recreate the identical occasions. He then entered a “one-time jeopardy plea” and Friday’s listening to ended.
Lizette’s response stems from varied choices made by the legal professional and Kern County Superior Courtroom Decide Charles Bremer throughout the trial and instructing jurors within the case. The strikes are uncommon and distinctive, native protection attorneys stated.
“I’ve by no means seen that performed earlier than,” protection legal professional Mark Anthony Raimondo stated of Howard’s trial.
Howard was in a relationship with Pitts when he strangled her, beat her and tried to rape her, she testified earlier in her personal protection.
However he escaped, and was not confronted once more till 2019, 14 years later. It was then that he realized that their daughter, Bailey Frost, had been sexually abused by her father as an adolescent.
The Tehachapi Police Division has opened an investigation into Frost’s allegations towards her father. They requested Howard and his household to be quiet round Pitts so he would not concentrate on their investigation.
Pitts, who lived on the identical road as Howard in Tehachapi, requested on June 5, 2019 if he might convey his grandson to his home to play together with his kids. Howard stated sure.
Earlier than Pitts arrived, Howard testified, he realized of one other sufferer who had been sexually assaulted by Pitts.
Howard and Frost mentioned confronting Pitts with proof of his molestation of Frost and Howard placing a gun in his waistband. He met him exterior and ultimately shot him.
Chief Deputy District Lawyer Eric Smith stated Howard’s anger bubbled over and overwhelmed him earlier than he shot Pitts. She confirmed Pitts emotional textual content messages earlier than she died and stated she needed to prosecute the person who abused her.
Howard testified that he shot Pitts as a result of he was afraid of him after struggling abuse at his palms. She additionally testified that she needed to guard her kids who have been close by.
Jurors, after a 10-day trial, acquitted Howard on October 21 of first- and second-degree homicide, in addition to involuntary manslaughter. Nonetheless, jurors had two choices when weighing voluntary manslaughter: they might discover him responsible of the cost of appearing in imperfect self-defense or appearing within the warmth of ardour.
Seven jurors discovered him responsible of voluntary manslaughter within the warmth of ardour, whereas 5 needed acquittal. He was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter in imperfect self-defense.
A gag order prevents attorneys from speaking concerning the case.
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It’s uncommon for jurors to be allowed to individually weigh the weather of voluntary manslaughter, which native protection attorneys stated weren’t concerned within the case.
Usually, judges will take into account voluntary manslaughter as a cost. However Bremer’s cost shares one thing that protection legal professional Raimondo has by no means seen.
“It does not come round fairly often,” agreed native protection legal professional Jared Thompson.
It was the twin cost that enabled Howard’s protection legal professional, Lizette, to enter a jeopardy plea.
Lizette stated throughout Friday’s listening to that she was talking with protection attorneys and appellate attorneys concerning the case and that Howard was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter. That is as a result of the jury has already returned a not-guilty verdict on that cost, and subsequently the DA will not be capable to recount the identical details, protection attorneys stated.
Raimondo stated the attraction is harmful to the U.S. Structure and the California Structure. That is to make sure that defendants who’re acquitted can’t be retried on the identical expenses, the attorneys defined. Exceptions to this rule might happen in instances of jury tampering or bribery.
“It is a very, very advanced difficulty,” Raimondo stated.
A movement date was set for Feb. 21 for Lidgett to argue how the once-in-jeopardy plea ought to be stayed within the case. Attorneys had an “in depth” dialog a few decision to the case throughout the listening to, Bremer stated, however have been unable to give you one. He didn’t tackle the matter additional.
If Brehmer rejects the provide, Lizette can ask the appeals court docket to step in. He might argue how an open plea holds up within the case, and a fifth District Courtroom of Appeals decide might vacate the trial court docket’s determination primarily based on that argument, Thompson stated.
If an attraction is filed, a trial won’t happen till a call is handed down.
However Raimondo does not see Howard making an attempt to get retried for voluntary manslaughter — Howard might get up and say the killing was premeditated, he stated.
“The DA spent his total profession making an attempt to show that individuals did not act within the warmth of ardour,” Raimondo stated. “It will be very, very troublesome for them to argue within the warmth of the second.”
You’ll be able to attain Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You’ll be able to observe him on Twitter @_ishanidesai.
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