BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Wendy Howard was sentenced to one year probation with time served Thursday morning after she entered a plea of ‘no contest’ to voluntary manslaughter on April 7.
The plea to the voluntary manslaughter charge was the result of negotiations after the end of a jury trial where a Kern County jury heard evidence regarding Howard’s unlawful killing of her ex-boyfriend Kelly Pitts.
The Kern County District Attorney’s Office said the previous jury trial, which ended on October 21, 2022, resulted in verdicts of not guilty for murder and voluntary manslaughter under a theory of imperfect self-defense. However, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the voluntary manslaughter charge that was grounded in a “heat of passion” theory. As a result, after the jury trial, Howard remained charged with a count of voluntary manslaughter based on a heat of passion theory of liability.
The DA’s office said under the “heat of passion” theory of voluntary manslaughter, the People alleged that Howard was mad at Kelly Pitts over allegations of molesting and other misconduct of Pitts toward her daughters, armed herself with a firearm and sought out a confrontation with Pitts. During the trial, Howard claimed that during the confrontation, Pitts drove his ATV toward her, but could not verify if she was ever struck at all by the ATV, according to the DA.
This action, Howard claimed, in combination with a “look” that she claimed to recognize Pitts having from a prior domestic violence incident 14 years earlier, justified her use of deadly force to shoot and kill Pitts, according to the DA.
The jury’s inability to reach a unanimous verdict on Howard’s guilt regarding a “heat of passion” basis for voluntary manslaughter was indicative that the jury refused to unanimously accept that the killing was done in lawful self-defense. A killing done in lawful self-defense would have entitled Howard to a not guilty verdict of all charges.
On April 7, 2023, Howard entered a no contest plea to the remaining charge of voluntary manslaughter.
On May 4, 2023, Howard was sentenced on the felony charge of voluntary manslaughter to which she entered a no contest plea. Howard was granted felony probation on the voluntary manslaughter charge, which was in accord with the plea agreement entered, according to the DA.
Though the probation included a period of time in custody, Howard’s about three months spent in jail prior to being released on bail before the trial was sufficient to satisfy the jail requirement, and Howard was given credit for the time in custody that she had already served, and no further jail time will be required as long as Howard satisfies the conditions of her felony probation.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer commented on the resolution, stating, “Wendy Howard and her daughters have many rights as the victims of crime, but those rights do not include a license for Wendy Howard to kill. Regardless of how wronged a person feels, or how abhorrent the conduct of another is, the law does not empower individuals to make themselves the judge, jury and executioner of those who are perceived to have wronged them. Kelly Pitts may have deserved to be imprisoned for his conduct, but he did not deserve to be killed. The very protections that Howard enjoyed – a trial where her side could be heard and guilt and punishment could be considered by a judge and jury – are the same protections she denied to her victim by shooting him dead without legal justification.”
After her sentencing, Tony Lidgett, Wendy Howard’s attorney, said, “The reason why I took a little while to get out here, I actually filed a notice of appeal. So we might even find out months down the road, that in fact she was completely acquitted, which I actually do believe is going to be the case.”
An advocate group for Howard, called Justice for Wendy, said in a release, “Kern County DA Cynthia Zimmer wasted taxpayer dollars and untold resources attempting to punish domestic violence survivor, Wendy Howard, for saving her own life. Though DA Zimmer aimed to send Wendy to prison for decades, possibly for the rest of her life, she failed to reach a conviction in a criminal trial. While DA Zimmer released a statement today acknowledging that Wendy’s abuser, Kelly Pitts, may have “deserved to be imprisoned,” she did not explain why her office failed to hold Pitts accountable when they had the chance. If they had taken steps to keep Wendy and her family safe, they could have prevented this entire tragedy. DA Zimmer also states that “Wendy and her daughters have many rights as victims,” but she does not explain which of those rights she chooses to support. The fact is that victims have the legal right to defend themselves and DA Zimmer failed to protect that right.”
Article By KGET, https://bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/wendy-howard-sentenced-to-one-year-probation-with-time-served-kern-county-crime-homicide-bakersfield-may-4-2023#