MICHIGAN CITY – There may be an end in sight to the manslaughter case against a Long Beach man accused of killing his wife in 2012 – or it could be the beginning of an entirely new legal battle.
John B. Larkin was acquitted of the voluntary manslaughter charge he’d been fighting for almost seven years when the jury delivered its verdict on Sept. 13. However, he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a lesser-included charge that special Judge Roger Bradford allowed jurors to consider at the last minute.
Larkin is scheduled to return to La Porte Superior Court 1 for argued sentencing on Monday, but his defense attorneys have filed a motion to vacate the conviction, claiming involuntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense should never have been allowed.
In Larkin’s initial charging information from 2012, he is accused of shooting his wife with a handgun knowingly or intentionally during an act of sudden heat. Over the course of almost seven years of court hearings on the matter, the charging information was never altered.
However, at Larkin’s jury trial in September – after four days of evidence and both the state and defense having rested their cases – the prosecution requested the lesser-included offense be allowed for jury consideration. Bradford granted the request.
Involuntary manslaughter alleges Larkin unintentionally killed his wife during the commission of a battery when he shoved her with the gun, inadvertently causing her to sustain a fatal gunshot wound.
Larkin’s defense attorneys say in their motion that because the state does not allege any act of battery in the charging information tied to the case, involuntary manslaughter is ineligible to be used as a lesser-included offense.
They write: “Here, although the State specifically alleged that a handgun was the deadly weapon, the State did not allege how the handgun was used to kill. The State could have specified that Larkin knowingly killed Stacey by shooting her and/or by shoving her with a gun. These are two different acts, and the State alleged neither. …
“Because the State never charged the specifics of how Larkin killed Stacey, involuntary manslaughter is not a factually lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter.”
They also take issue with the timing of the allegation – made after both sides had rested and just minutes before each was to present its closing argument to the jury.
“Because of the limited time to adjust her closing argument to address the new battery that could be based on Larkin’s admitted shoving of Stacey, Larkin’s counsel was unprepared to explain to the jury the complicated nuances of self-defense,” the defense says in its motion.
They claim that allowing the involuntary manslaughter conviction to stick would be a violation of Larkin’s constitutional rights.
Stacey Renee Simon Larkin died of two gunshot wounds to the chest on Dec. 11, 2012.
John Larkin was subsequently charged with a sole count of voluntary manslaughter as a Class A felony, punishable by 20-50 years in the Indiana Department of Correction.
Because the jury did not convict him of that charge, he may not be retried on it.
However, if the judge denies the defense’s motion and allows the involuntary manslaughter conviction to stand, Larkin will face 2-8 years in the DOC on the Class C felony.
Larkin’s hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday in La Porte Superior Court 1.