A man accused of killing a Lafayette police officer is set to appear in court for his arraignment on Oct. 24, following a hearing Wednesday in which 28-year-old defendant Ian Howard appeared confused over his representation.
Howard is accused of shooting Officer Michael Middlebrook and two others at a north Lafayette convenience store on Oct. 1. He faces one count of first-degree murder of a police officer, a capital offense, and three counts of attempted murder. District Attorney Keith Stutes said Wednesday his office will seek the death penalty.
The hearing Wednesday was to determine if Howard is indigent, meaning that he qualifies to be represented by a lawyer appointed by the court and paid for by the public. It got off to a tense start.
Steve Singer, a lawyer with the Capital Appeals Project who appeared in Howard’s defense, engaged in a testy exchange with Judge Jules Edwards of the 15th Judicial District Court concerning Howard’s qualifications for indigence.
Singer submitted an affidavit from Howard’s father swearing to Howard’s inability to afford a lawyer, but Edwards said the law required Howard to attest to that himself. Singer disagreed, and a lengthy debate ensued.
Singer eventually called Public Defender Paul Marx to testify in Howard’s defense, but Marx never had a chance to do so. Singer asked Edwards if it was OK to sit while asking questions of Marx, and the judge invited him — as well as Howard — to sit.
At that point Howard told the judge he wanted to speak with a “public attorney” who had visited him in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center, and not with the lawyers from the Capital Appeals Project, a nonprofit that contracts with the state public-defenders board to handle capital cases.
Edwards asked if Howard could swear to his indigence, which would seem to satisfy the judge’s concerns, but Howard replied that he’s “not indigent.”
Howard stated in a previous hearing before a different judge that he would pay for a private lawyer.
The lawyer who visited Howard in jail, 1st Assistant Public Defender Chad Ikerd, was summoned to the courtroom, and he and Marx met privately with Howard. They emerged with a completed application for indigence, signed by Howard, that satisfied the judge. The Capital Appeals Project will continue to represent Howard.
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