Judge Sets New Sentence Status Hearing for Attempted Murder Defendant

 Starke Circuit Judge Kim Hall isn’t comfortable accepting a plea agreement from an attempted murder defendant who claims he acted in self defense just yet. He’s instructed the prosecutor and Benton Christopher Howard’s defense attorneys to continue searching for applicable case law.

Howard, 42, is accused of critically stabbing Brandon Davidson at a home in the Parkview Heights area of Knox on Nov. 30, 2014. Davidson was transferred from IU Health Starke Hospital to South Bend for treatment of a wound to his heart and lung. Howard is charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in connection with the incident. His plea is to a lesser battery offense.

During a June 8th court appearance, Howard told Judge Hall he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the incident occurred. However, his memory of the events and witnesses is fuzzy. Howard claims Davidson was on a mattress inside the home drifting in and out of consciousness. He says Davison looked pale, and he thought he might be dying. Howard shook him and says Davidson woke up fighting. According to Howard, they tussled in the floor, and Davidson kicked him in the head several times, which is why he’s not sure what happened. Howard says he was “pretty addled” and didn’t know what else to do, so he picked a knife up from the floor and stabbed Davidson in self defense.

Under the law, self defense is not a crime. However, witnesses have offered a different account of what happened. Court documents indicate Howard believed Davidson was a “snitch” and was giving him a hard time prior to the incident. Howard’s attorney, Richard Ballard, says his client believes it’s in his best interest to plead guilty to the lesser charge rather than take his chances with a jury trial.

Judge Hall told the attorneys again he wants to be certain the court can legally accept a guilty plea in a case where the defendant claims he acted in self defense and said he will not accept one without case law to support it. Howard is scheduled to be sentenced July 16th. Judge Hall reset his sentence status hearing for Tuesday, July 14.