Appeals court acquits husband in wife’s shooting death

LA PORTE COUNTY, Ind. -- The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of John Larkin in the death of his wife, Stacey, and ordered he be acquitted. 

John Larkin was taken into custody and questioned on December 11, 2012 after calling 9-1-1 after his wife was shot.

Larkin was charged on December 13 with voluntary manslaughter and police conducted a recorded interview.

After the recorded interview was complete, the recording equipment continued recording and captured video of Larkin and his attorney in a privileged conversation.

A court reporter transcribed the discussion and distributed it to the prosecutor’s office, according to court records.

In July 2014, Larkin moved to dismiss the voluntary manslaughter charge citing police and prosecutorial misconduct. A new prosecutor was elected in November 2014 and a special prosecutor was appointed.

In May 2016, Larkin moved for the charges to be dismissed arguing a fair trial was impossible.

The trial court agreed and dismissed the voluntary manslaughter charge. The state appealed and the court of appeals confirmed.

On June 28, 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled improperly obtained evidence should be suppressed but the charges should not have been dismissed.

On May 7, 2019, Larkin filed a motion to dismiss for state misconduct alleging the state withheld evidence the gun involved in the shooting was defective and would fire even if the safety was engaged or without the trigger being pulled when the gun was dropped or bumped, reports said. Larkin’s defense argued the shooting was accidental. He said Stacey was shot while he was struggling to get the gun away from her, according to court records.

The court found the gun defect, which the defense was now aware of, did not have an effect on the evidence and the case went to trial in September 2019.

During the trial, testimony showed Stacey had been acting erratically before her death and had been the person who pulled the gun out of the safe the day of the shooting, according to court records.

Larkin argued Stacey was shot while he was struggling to get the gun away from her.

Just before closing arguments, the state instructed the jury they could find Larkin guilty of involuntary manslaughter if he pushed Stacey. Larkin had testified he did push Stacey while trying to get the gun away from her.

Larkin objected to the last minute change in the charges, but the trial continued.

After 12 hours, the jury found Larkin guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but the sentence was delayed until his appeals are completed.

In this appeal, Larkin alleged the state shouldn’t have been allowed to argue involuntary manslaughter after all testimony was complete and before closing arguments. His attorney did not have time to plan a defense for that charge.

The appeals court found the admission of involuntary manslaughter was improper because it was not a lesser and included offense.

The appeals court overturned Larkin’s conviction, ordered a finding of acquittal.

The appeals court also stated the prosecution failed to provide evidence refuting Larkin’s self-defense argument beyond a reasonable doubt.

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