A state appeals court panel Friday upheld a man’s conviction for murdering his live-in girlfriend at their Reseda apartment more than six years ago.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to show premeditation and deliberation by James W. Howard Jr. when he killed Sharilit Matthews on Feb. 2, 2012.
In their 34-page ruling, the appellate court justices noted that Matthews — whose throat was slit — “would have had little chance to avoid the single, fatal wound.”
The panel also noted that evidence of Matthews’ conduct after the killing may constitute evidence of premeditation.
“Here, defendant failed to obtain assistance for Matthews while she lay on the bed gasping for air. Instead, he packed up his belongings and then spent 20 minutes exchanging text messages with a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship, arranging to see her in the coming days,” the justices noted.
Howard admitted killing his girlfriend, but contended that he had killed her in the heat of passion because he believed she had been pregnant with his baby and believed that she had an abortion.
Matthews was found dead eight days after she was killed.
Howard was initially convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder.
A state appeals court panel subsequently overturned Howard’s conviction, ruling in February 2015 that the prosecution’s argument involving the standard of provocation necessary for manslaughter was “misleading” in Howard’s first trial and that “some highly prejudicial evidence,” including Howard’s “rather detailed sex messages” with a transsexual man, had been improperly admitted.
Howard was subsequently retried and convicted again in December 2015 of first-degree murder and sentenced to 56 years to life in state prison.
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