A trial date for the man accused of killing a Lafayette police officer and wounding three others in a 2017 shooting was pushed back Monday amid tense arguments between opposing lawyers.
Ian Howard is being tried separately on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook because District Attorney Keith Stutes’ Office is seeking the death penalty.
Trial on three attempted murder charges stemming from the nonfatal shootings had been scheduled for Nov. 18, but prosecutors on Monday agreed to reset it for Jan. 21 to avoid suppression of video and photographic evidence.
Judge Jules Edwards, of the 15th Judicial District, gave prosecutors the options to push back the date after they failed to specify in writing the video and photographic evidence they intended to use at trial. Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney acknowledged that he had not filed a formal notice, but he disagreed with Howard’s lawyers that his failure to do so amounted to a violation of the judge’s order.
Edwards, in a written order, had set an Aug. 30 deadline for prosecutors to provide “particularized notice of which surveillance videos (and which portions of said videos) and which photographs” they intended to use at trial. Defense lawyers argued the notice was necessary because they did not have time to assess the admissibility of the “unusually large volume” of such evidence prior to the November trial date.
Haney and defense lawyer Elliott Brown, of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, which is representing Howard, had previously verbally discussed the prosecutors’ intentions regarding video and photographic evidence prior to that deadline. But in court Monday, Brown said Haney told him prosecutors would “probably” use all the available evidence. Haney responded that he had unequivocally told Brown the state would use all the evidence.
Edwards said the differing accounts of a conversation he had not been present for only reinforced the need for a written filing.
Haney accused Brown of “absolutely lying” about their discussion. Brown appeared to take personal exception to the comment and after Edwards called for a 15-minute recess approached the prosecutors’ table, telling Haney that “you can call me a lot of things, but don’t call me that.”
Haney and another assistant district attorney, Kenneth Hebert, refused to speak with Brown, telling him they would not discuss the case outside Edwards’ presence.
The two assistant district attorneys ridiculed the idea that they were required to disclose the specific evidence they intended to use at trial given that Howard has not yet entered a plea. They characterized the discussion about their intent to use all available video and photographic evidence as a “courtesy,” drawing a rebuke from defense lawyer Stephen Singer.
“I have never heard of abiding by a court order as a courtesy," Singer said. "I’ve always understood it to be an obligation."
Howard’s lawyers are considering an insanity defense, but they have argued that neuropsychologist’s evaluation of their client is necessary to decide. That evaluation is scheduled for Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, where Howard is being held. The defense’s deadline to notify the court of its intent to pursue an insanity defense is Oct. 31.