ACA.ianhoward.03.032721

Ian Howard is escorted into the Lafayette Parish Courthouse for a hearing Friday, March 26, 2021, in Lafayette, La.

A hearing concerning search warrants in the Ian Howard case will be continued to July after witness testimony Friday, which wrapped up three days of hearings on defense motions to suppress Howard’s statements and physical evidence.

Howard, who admits to fatally shooting Lafayette Police Officer Michael Middlebrook and wounding three others in 2017, is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity in two cases: one for three counts of attempted murder, another for capital murder in Middlebrook’s death.

Howard’s lawyers claim five search warrants used to seize his medical records, as well as evidence from his apartment, car, phone and laptop were either “entirely invalid,” overbroad or not supported by probable cause. The defense also claims it was inappropriate for Judge Marilyn Castle to sign most of the warrants, since she was not assigned to the case.

The lead State Police investigator on the case, Christopher Leday, testified that detectives sought out Castle because she is known to adhere to strict standards.

“If they can pass with this judge, they are good to go,” Leday said. “We thought it would be the best avenue to go through, just based on her behavior.”

Detectives who executed the search warrants said they did so through an automated system that allowed them to select the judges. None of the testimony established any requirement that the judge handling a case must be the one to sign warrants.

Testimony from Leday and other State Police detectives handling search warrant

Howard’s lawyers also want to suppress all of Howard’s statements after the shooting, arguing that his mental illness prevented him from understanding his right to remain silent. The statements they want to restrict from trial evidence include Howard’s threats to kill officers and medical staff during his combative arrest and transport to the Lafayette Police headquarters, University Hospital and the parish jail. The defense also wants to suppress his formal interview with State Police.

Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett on Thursday shut down the hearing over Howard’s statements when it became clear the defense and prosecution disagreed over what is suppressible. Prosecutors say suppression is limited strictly to statements resulting from police misconduct, regardless of a suspect’s mental state.

Additional briefs on the suppression motions are expected within 45 days. Arguments on those motions, as well as a defense motion to conduct the trial outside Lafayette, are scheduled for July 16.


Email Ben Myers at bmyers@theadvocate.com. Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.