(Photo: Brian Chilson, Arkansas Times)
After spending almost 15 years on death row in Arkansas and another 2 years in county jail for the 1997 murders of Brian and Shanon Day and the attempted murder of their infant son, Trevor, Tim Howard’s long-awaited new trial took place in Ashdown, AR. The trial was originally expected to last a week, but it wound up lasting twice that long. Opening statements were on April 27th and the jury didn’t receive the case until the afternoon of May 8th.
Investigative journalist Mara Leveritt was in the courtroom every day and each did an outstanding job of reporting the day-to-day blows, so I will point you to her coverage rather than summarizing everything here.
The short of it is Tim was charged with nine counts in all: two counts of capital murder, two counts of 1st degree murder, two counts of 2nd degree murder, one count of attempted capital murder, one count of attempted 1st degree murder, and one count of attempted 2nd degree murder. Tim was acquitted of all the capital and 1st degree charges, but found guilty of the three 2nd degree charges. It was probably the 2nd best outcome Tim could have hoped for, but not the full acquittal we believe he deserves.
Without having the benefit of being in the jury room to hear the discussion, my belief is there were some jurors who wanted full acquittal, some who wanted capital murder convictions, and some who wanted something in between. I suspect after two long weeks of testimony and hours of deliberation, this was a compromise the jury could live with.
The reason it’s the 2nd best outcome is because while the jury sentenced Tim to 38 years in prison, he has already served half of his sentence, which makes him immediately eligible for transfer out of prison. He will have to put forth a parole plan and be seen by the parole board, but we are all optimistic he will be a free man in a matter of weeks.
I spoke with Tim a couple days after the trial and he is in great spirits. He’s so incredibly grateful to the people who have supported him and being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel has given him a huge sense of relief. It should be noted that his attorneys, particularly lead attorney Patrick Benca and co-counsel Katherine Streett, along with his investigative team did an incredible job for him. No stone was left unturned and no detail was missed. Bravo to these heroic people.
I’ll keep everyone up do date on Tim’s continuing journey toward freedom.