Supreme Court overturns conviction of Riley County man who killed exterminator

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A Riley County man is going back to trial for the 2008 murder of a bug exterminator in his home.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned 61-year-old Howard Barrett’s conviction of second-degree murder Friday morning. They broke with the Court of Appeals previous decision that Barrett could not have instead been convicted of imperfect self-defense voluntary manslaughter, after the jury was informed about his schizophrenia.

Feeling irrationally threatened due to the mental illness, Barrett beat and fatally stabbed 48-year-old Thomas James while he was doing extermination work inside Barrett’s apartment in Leonardville. 

A judge ruled Barrett incompetent to stand trial in 2009, but was ruled competent by another judge in 2010. Barrett was convicted in November 2014 but appealed the decision, saying the court made an error by not instructing the jury on imperfect self-defense voluntary manslaughter.

The Court of Appeals held the error was harmless because Barrett’s second-degree murder conviction nullified a possible manslaughter conviction. The Supreme Court disagreed, and remanded the case for a new trial.

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