LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The California Supreme Court today denied a defense petition to review the case of a man convicted of murdering his live-in girlfriend at their Reseda apartment 6 1/2 years ago.
James W. Howard Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder for the Feb. 2, 2012, killing of Sharilit Matthews, whose body was found eight days later.
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 had an abortion.
He was initially found guilty in 2013. But a state appeals court panel subsequently overturned his 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, 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.
About three months ago, a 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 Howard.
In their 34-page ruling, the appellate justices noted that Matthews — whose throat was slit — “would have had little chance to avoid the single, fatal wound,” and 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’ ruling states.