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Judge delays Howard trial

Profile image for By Megan Gray
By Megan Gray

Consultant says more time needed to review records and evidence

The case of a Ponder man charged with six counts of solicitation to commit capital murder by terroristic threat in connection with his wife of nearly 30 years was delayed Monday morning in the 362nd District Court in Denton County.

Judge Bruce McFarling granted a 90-day continuance for the trial of John Franklin Howard, 54, after the defense put John B. Minor, a communications consultant, on the stand to testify more time was needed to review the phone records and digital forensic evidence that will be introduced during the trial.

John Howard, a Carrollton-based accountant, is accused of plotting for years to kill his wife, Nancy Ann Howard, according to Carrollton Police Department investigators. She suffered serious bodily injury after being shot at their Carrollton home in August 2012, including the loss of her left eye.

After a series of interviews and investigations, police say they believe John Howard is linked to his wife’s attempted murder after allegedly soliciting and paying large amounts of money to multiple people to try to get the job done.

Roughly a year after turning himself in on a total of eight charges — six for solicitation to commit capital murder by terroristic threat, one for attempt to commit capital murder and one for conspiracy to commit capital murder — John Howard was seen in good spirits, dressed in a suit and tie while chatting alongside his parents before the hearing. He has been free on bail and living in Ponder since last March, according to Denton County Jail records.

Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney and lead prosecutor on the Howard case, said she is “more than frustrated” about the delay since the state supplied the records to the defense more than a year ago.

“This case will be close to two years old before going to trial,” she said. “We have now subpoenaed over 70 witnesses twice, and now we will have to do that a third time.”

Jerry Cobb, lead attorney for John Howard, said they were handed 104 disks of evidence from the state that might be introduced into the trial, and while not all of the disks contain phone records, he said, “a substantial amount do.”

“We are extremely pleased to be able to have the extra time given to us,” he said in the hallway of the Denton County Courts Building. “It will give our hired expert time to prepare.”

Minor told the court he is on deadline for a patent infringement case involving five major cellular carriers and he did not have the proper time to review the 9,000 to 10,000 pages of cellular carrier documents and viewing nine devices containing forensic images that were discussed with him at this time.

Michael Graves, a co-chairman for the state, questioned whether or not the records could be reviewed quicker since their expert only took about a week for review.

Ricky Perritt, a co-chairman for the defense, objected to multiple questions presented by the state Monday because he felt they did not need to know for what Minor was looking. McFarling accepted most the objections.

The trial was set to begin in McFarling’s court Monday, March 24, and will now be heard sometime this summer, officials said.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.