Jason Carter Murder Trial

Jason Carter stands prior to testimony on Thursday, March 14, 2019 during the first-degree murder trial against Jason Carter, a rural Marion County man accused of killing his mother Shirley Carter in 2015. The trial is taking place in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (POOL, Kyle Ocker/Daily Iowegian)

KNOXVILLE — Lawyers are asking a Marion County judge to consider a recent first degree murder acquittal while deciding whether to grant a new trial in the civil wrongful death case between a father and son.

The motion comes five days after a jury in Pottawattamie County deliberated less than two hours before acquitting Jason Carter of murder. He had been charged with killing his mother Shirley Carter in June 2015.

While he walked an innocent man from the courthouse in Council Bluffs, attention turned to a previous civil verdict that found him liable for the killing he was just acquitted of.

Jason Carter’s father, Bill Carter, filed a civil lawsuit in January 2016 against Jason Carter for wrongful death following the murder of Shirley Carter. After a jury trial in Marion County, Jason Carter was found civilly liable for her death in December 2017. As a result, he was ordered to pay more than $10 million to her estate.

Two days later, Jason Carter faced criminal charges in Shirley Carter’s death for first degree murder. Last week, those charges were dismissed after a jury found him not guilty.

Now, as Jason Carter seeks a new civil trial, his attorneys filed a motion Tuesday asking the court consider that criminal verdict and the evidence presented at the March trial.

In January, Judge Martha Mertz denied attempts from Jason Carter for a new civil trial. His team of lawyers a week after that decision filed a motion saying the judge didn’t consider all of the evidence they had presented to receive a new trial.

Bill Carter’s attorneys have resisted both attempts, but the court has not yet ruled on the latest request.

Standards of proof are much different between civil and criminal courts. In civil trials, verdicts are based on a preponderance of evidence while in a criminal trial a defendant must be proved guilty beyond any reasonable doubt by the state.

Jason Carter’s attorneys address that anticipated argument in their motion filed Tuesday.

“To the extent that Plaintiffs may assert the burden of proof is different in civil proceedings, Jason Carter reminds the Court that the jury in the criminal matter reached a unanimous finding of not guilty after less than two hours of deliberation,” read the motion.

Beyond the request for the criminal trial that acquitted Jason Carter to be considered, attorneys asked the judge to consider exculpatory evidence not known by Jason Carter until criminal charges were fired after the civil case.

Once criminal charges came, the state was required to turn over such evidence to his team — which was not a requirement of law enforcement for the civil trial.

During March’s criminal trial, Jason Carter’s attorney Christine Branstad — who also represents him in the civil case — argued the state was still investigating even during the March trial. This delayed exculpatory evidence being delivered to his team of lawyers, she argued.

At one point, Branstad argued the state may have violated Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to turn over all exculpatory evidence in criminal cases.

She also laid out evidence she said indicated law enforcement and prosecutors colluded with Bill Carter’s attorneys in the civil case to obtain a verdict that would be helpful in pressing criminal charges on Jason Carter.

Kyle Ocker has been the editor of the Knoxville Journal Express since November 2016. He formerly held the titles of sports editor and associate editor at the Centerville Daily Iowegian, a sister paper to the Journal Express.

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