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Sides select jury in murder-for-hire trial

Profile image for By Megan Gray-Hatfield / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray-Hatfield / Staff Writer

A jury was seated Monday in a Denton County courtroom to hear the case of a Ponder man who is accused of plotting to have his wife killed.

Fifty-seven potential jurors were presented in Judge Bruce McFarling’s 362nd District Court to hear the case against John Franklin Howard, who is charged with attempt to commit capital murder.

If convicted, Howard could face up to life in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.

Before jury selection began, defense attorneys Jerry Cobb and Ricky Perritt entered a handful of motions into court on Monday morning. Cobb said some of those motions are related to the phone records they obtained earlier this year from the state.

Perritt referred to some of the evidence from those phone records that prosecutors want to present as “hearsay.”

“There is a plethora of [statements] which may or may not be admissible,” he said before the court Monday afternoon.

McFarling agreed to hear the argument before the jury is brought in for opening remarks today, pushing the start of testimony to possibly sometime later this afternoon.

Carrollton police investigators said Howard paid thousands of dollars to hire a hit man to kill his wife, Nancy Howard, who was shot in the face on Aug. 18, 2012, in the garage of the couple’s home in the 1500 block of Bluebonnet Way in Carrollton.

Nancy Howard told police she was confronted by a white man in his early 20s who put a handgun to her head and demanded her purse. She gave the man her purse and then was shot in the face, according to police records.

Nancy Howard, John Howard’s wife of nearly 30 years, suffered serious injuries as a result of the gunshot wound, including the loss of her left eye.

Michael Lee Lorence and Dustin Taylor Hiroms were both arrested in connection with the shooting, according to court records. Lorence was charged with conspiracy to commit capital murder by terroristic threat and aggravated robbery, while Hiroms was charged with aggravated robbery.

Lorence is awaiting a hearing in his case on Aug. 28, while the charge against Hiroms was dropped, according to the district attorney’s office. Hiroms is expected to serve as a witness for the prosecution.

First Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck said that without knowing what can or cannot be presented, she would not be sure what kind of opening arguments her office will be putting together.

Prosecutor Rick Daniel said he hopes to at least have a couple of witnesses hit the stand today.

“It went as expected,” Beck said after the first day in court ended. “It’s [the hearing] going to push us back for the actual trial.”

Howard, sitting with his three-member defense team, wore a dark gray suit and kept a friendly disposition throughout the day’s proceedings.

After a long day in court, a 12-member jury and two alternates were finally selected.

Both sides said they were pleased with the jury selection and are ready to begin.

“We may very well not start [testimony] until Wednesday, which is what we should do,” Cobb said. “I am very satisfied with the jury, though.”

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