Jason Carter Murder Trial

Jason Carter during the first-degree murder trial against Jason Carter, a rural Marion County man accused of killing his mother Shirley Carter in 2015. The trial is taking place in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (POOL, Kyle Ocker/Daily Iowegian)

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Jurors decided prosecutors failed to prove that Jason Carter killed his mother Shirley Carter on June 19, 2015.

The jury from Pottawattamie County, where the trial was moved due to publicity, deliberated just two hours Thursday before finding Jason Carter not guilty of first-degree murder. The verdict brought an end to the nearly three-week trial.

Immediately, Shelly Carter, the wife of Jason Carter, leaned over a railing from the gallery to embrace her husband. The emotions continued as together Jason and Shelly Carter addressed the media in the courtroom.

“I just wanna go home and see my kids,” an emotional Jason Carter. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve had to endure so much. Nobody can even come close to knowing.”

After a walk down a stairway toward the defense’s headquarters in the courthouse, Jason Carter had more to say. With a gaggle of press in toe, Jason Carter stopped at the base of the stairwell to thank his team of attorneys. Later, he called upon law enforcement to find whoever is responsible for killing his mother.

“Bring the people who did this to justice,” Jason Carter said. “Do your job.”

Until the verdict, Marion County Attorney Ed Bull thought authorities had done that. He said he looked forward to potentially learning from the jury where the state fell short.

“When I walk into a courtroom and I charge a person with murder in the first degree, I’m firmly convinced that’s the person who committed the offense,” Bull said.

It will be the task of law enforcement to continue their investigation into finding other suspects. With the verdict, Bull said, the fact remains that Shirley Carter was murdered.

“There’s no winners in this case,” Bull said. “Shirley Carter is still dead. Bill Carter still every day wakes up and his wife isn’t there next to him. The reality is we presented the best case we had with the evidence we had, and I hope that Mr. Carter and his family understands that we did the best we could for him, to try and bring justice to Shirley Carter.”

Christine Branstad, Jason Carter's attorney, said she felt in the end the evidence is what the jury saw.

“We felt the jury heard the message and looked at the evidence,” Branstad said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

In her closing arguments Thursday morning, Branstad outlined for the jury the lack of evidence in the case. She specifically noted the admitted lack of DNA and forensics evidence to tie Jason Carter to the killing. Branstad argued investigators wanted to arrest Jason Carter for the killing and took various statements and actions out of context to attempt to build their case.

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