The case against Nicole Howell came to an abrupt end yesterday after a Kenton County jury quickly chose to acquit the former teacher accused of inappropriate relations with a student.
So be it.
It would have been a more cleansing victory for Howell had it not been for the strong sense - from both the judge and the defense attorney - that the case was mishandled by the prosecution from the start.
Salvation also came by way of providence, when the phone company chose to delete a ton of text messages exchanged between Howell and her accuser.
That left the prosecution with a bunch of smoke but no physical evidence.
Howell needed a clean victory. What she got was an acquittal that was more about procedures and poor case preparation than it was about exoneration.
This from the Enquirer:
It took jurors only 70 minutes to find fired Dayton High School teacher Nicole Howell not guilty of having sex with a 16-year-old student who played football.
“The fact this jury of 12 Kenton County citizens deliberated just over an hour to come to this decision is very gratifying,”
Howell’s attorney, Eric Deters, said while fighting back tears just seconds after the verdict was read. Sheriff’s deputies told Howell’s family to restrain themselves after an explosion of cheers, fist-pumping and cries filled Kenton Circuit Judge Gregory Bartlett’s courtroom.
“I just cannot believe it is all over,” Howell said. “I don’t think I even realize how much it is all over. I don’t have to worry about it any more.” ...
Howell said after the verdict that she didn’t hold a grudge against the student, but that she felt “sad” for him.
Deters said the not guilty verdict was, in part, a statement about the sloppiness of the investigation and prosecution of Howell.
The trial was almost derailed on the second day because the dates prosecutors alleged the crime occurred were different on the indictment than what was claimed at trial. The discrepancy even drew the ire of Bartlett, who called it “sloppy.”
Then, on the jury instructions, the date was again wrong. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stefanie Kastner told jurors it was her fault that the instructions said the crime took place in 2009. It should have read 2008.Howell said the allegations have nearly destroyed her life.“Professionally and personally, I will never be able to get my reputation back,” she said. “Obviously, my main concern was to pursue the fact that I was innocent from the beginning. I did that. I’ve been vindicated.“From here on out, I’m just going to go home and enjoy my life.” ..
Deters admitted Howell’s version of events had some inconsistencies, but said she wasn’t the one who had to prove anything.“Remember, we do not have the burden of proof,” Deters said. “They have the entire burden of proof to prove my client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”