Valley City judge set to hear Howe murder conspiracy case
North Dakota District Judge Jay Schmitz of Valley City was named this week by the state Supreme Court to hear the murder conspiracy case against Grand Forks attorney Henry Howe.
Howe is slated for a preliminary hearing and/or arraignment March 28 in Grafton, when he can enter a formal plea to the Class AA felony count that carries a top prison sentence of life without parole upon conviction.
David Thompson, one of Howe’s defense attorneys, had filed a motion to have state District Judge Richard Geiger of Grafton removed from the case. Other judges in the northeast part of the state, where Howe, 72, has practiced criminal defense law for decades, indicated to state officials last week they did not wish to hear the case.
Schmitz works in the Southeast Judicial District in the state.
Howe is charged with conspiring with two convicted drug felons, including one who was his client, to kill a female informant who worked with investigators to obtain evidence against Howe’s client, Paul Lysengen, during an alleged drug buy last May in Minto, N.D.
Walsh County State’s Attorney Barbara Whelan said Howe discussed with Lysengen and Wesley Smith the need to kill the informant before Lysengen’s drug trial began in April.
Howe denied the charge during his initial hearing Jan. 30 and has hired Thompson, another Grand Forks lawyer, and William Kirschner, who practices law in Fargo, to defend him.
Howe remains free after posting $100,000 bond; Smith and Lysengen remain in jail in Grafton under $200,000 bonds and have not had a preliminary hearing or arraignment scheduled.