Slow journey to justice in south Kansas City slaying that killed 5

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the better part of his adult life, Brandon Howell has lived behind bars.

The now 38-year-old is currently at the Jackson County Jail charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Lorene and Darrel Hurst, George and Ann Taylor and Susan Choucroun.

"Her mother passed away six weeks before Susan was murdered, so we experienced a lot of loss in a short period of time,” Ronald Sandhaus, Choucroun’s brother, told 41 Action News over the phone.

That was in September 2014.

The following year, the prosecutor's office announced it would seek the death penalty against Howell as the court had set a trial date of September 25, 2017.

However, in 2016, Howell’s defense team asked for that date to be pushed back.

The judge allowed it and a new trial date was penciled in for March of this year. But last October, the defense asked for it be pushed back once again.

"I'm not terribly shocked by the delay or find it out of the ordinary,” Sandhaus said.

This five-page order explains the case thus far.

 

Howell's lead counsel is a public defender from a unit that specializes in death penalty cases. However, that unit can only handle so many cases in a year.

If the case had gone on in March as planned, it could have risked violating Howell's Constitutional rights.

The judge decided to grant, once again, a new trial date.

"The courts and everyone in a death penalty case bend over backward a little bit to go along with a lot of the motions of the defense and stuff because they don't want to create errors that would cause a reversal on appeal,” Sandhaus said.

Howell is now set to go in front of a jury on April 9, 2019.

"The fact that he is off the streets and probably is never going to see the light of day again, I feel some level of justice,” Sandhaus said.

A pre-trial conference hearing for Howell is set for Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

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