KNOXVILLE — A Marion County judge last week declined to give Jason Carter a new civil trial, despite his criminal acquittal.
Judge Martha Mertz in a 10-page ruling filed Friday pointed to the different burdens of proof between a civil case and a criminal case.
“The fact Jason was found not guilty by the jury in a criminal case does not negate the validity of the jury’s verdict in the civil case,” read her ruling.
In March, Carter was acquitted by a Council Bluffs jury of a first-degree murder charge stemming from his mother Shirley Carter’s 2015 death.
The criminal case against him began two days after a Marion County jury decided that Carter was liable for his mother’s death. The decision came in 2017 at the conclusion of a civil trial for wrongful death that was brought against Carter’s father, Bill Carter.
Carter was ultimately ordered to pay $10 million to Shirley Carter’s estate.
In criminal cases, a defendant’s guilt must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt from the evidence presented in court. For civil cases, only a “preponderance of the evidence” is needed to overcome the burden, a significantly lower threshold.
“A not guilty verdict does not necessarily indicate the jury concluded Jason was innocent,” Mertz wrote of the Council Bluffs’ jury decision. “It indicates the state did not have sufficient evidence to convince twelve people of Jason’s guilty.”
Mertz's decision does not end Carter's road to a new trial. The case had already been appealed after the verdict, but proceedings for that stage were paused pending Mertz's ruling that came Friday.
Attorneys for Carter have asked for a further stay, indicating they intend to file an appeal to Friday's ruling.
In court filings, Carter's attorneys argued they received additional evidence that could have aided his defense during the civil trial once it was provided to them for the criminal trial.
Often referred to as the Brady rule, prosectors are required to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense in criminal cases.
Attorneys for his father, Bill Carter, in the civil trial opposed to Carter's calls for a new trial with additional evidence submitted.
"Here we go again," lawyers for Bill Carter wrote in a February filing in the case. "[Jason Carter] is again asking for yet another bite at the apple after more than a year of post-trial motions."