The two-part finale special of the A&E series Accused: Guilty or Innocent? explored the case of a man accused of killing his mother. The show’s premise is to document a case from the perspective of the accused, including their defense, trial and how their family is coping with the situation. The show has already explored complex cases in its inaugural season, such as Angel Bumpass’ arrest and trial.
This episode dives into the arrest of Jason Carter, who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his mother Shirley Carter, who was shot twice in her home on June 19, 2015, in rural Marion County, Iowa. Jason Carter was accused of committing the crime not only by the authorities but also by his father, his sister and his brother.
Where is Jason Carter today?
He Was Found Not Guilty of the June 19, 2015, Murder of His Mother
The criminal trial took place in Pottawattamie County after being moved from Marion County to avoid the pre-trial publicity. After a trial that lasted almost three weeks, the jury found Carter not guilty on March 21, 2019. The verdict was an emotional one and Carter hugged his attorneys and tearfully kissed his wife Shelly immediately after being acquitted.
Afterward, he had a message for law enforcement, according to the Daily Iowegian: “Bring the people who did this to justice,” he said. “Do your job.”
Through their attorneys, Jason and Shelly Carter emailed Heavy a statement thanking A&E for allowing him a voice during the process. They said: “We appreciate the sensitivity A&E showed in covering our life over many months. We are grateful for the accurate depiction of this process. We are happy to be back to family and farming without cameras.”
Although Carter is back home and lives less than a mile from his father, he is still estranged from his family.
Carter Was Found Responsible for His Mother’s Death in Civil Court & He Is Appealing the Verdict
Carter actually had a civil trial before the criminal trial portrayed in the A&E episode. On January 5, 2016, his father Bill Carter and his two siblings filed a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court against him, accusing him of killing Shirley Carter, WHO13 reported. On December 15, 2017, a jury in Marion County found him responsible for her death and ordered him to pay $10 million to her estate.
It was only a couple of days after this verdict that Carter was arrested and charged with her murder. However, since being found not guilty in the criminal trial, Carter and his legal team have appealed the civil judgment.
In February 2020, a Marion County judge ruled that the verdict would stand and that the criminal trial result doesn’t invalidate the civil trial verdict, court documents show. Carter is still represented by Christine Branstad, Nathan Olson and Alison Kanne for the appeals and post-judgment motions. His legal team told Heavy that they are continuing to challenge the judgment and are going through a process of appeals and motions to remand.
In March 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the civil verdict. Since then, Carter has filed another state lawsuit attempting to overturn the $10 million civil verdict and that case is still pending in Marion County court, the Des Moines Register reported.
Jason Carter Has Filed a Lawsuit Against the Iowa Authorities, Including Agent Ludwick, for ‘Failure to Investigate’ His Mother’s Death
Carter has also filed his own legal action seeking damages based on the investigation into his mother’s death, Heavy has learned. His legal team filed the petition on March 23, 2020, which says that they have “continued to receive additional exculpatory evidence, evidence showing law enforcement’s failure to reasonably investigate this homicide.” The lawsuit focuses primarily on the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Special Agent Mark Ludwick.
The Marion County Tribune obtained the petition, which reads: “Before even arriving on the homicide scene, Agent Ludwick was focused on Jason Carter.” The petition also accuses Ludwick of ignoring information leading to other suspects, failing to interview potential witnesses, and directing other officers to ignore evidence. The petition also says Ludwick removed an officer from the investigation who disagreed with how it was handled.
Lynn Hicks, the communications director for the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa, told Heavy: “We deny any wrongdoing on the part of Agent Ludwick and we have moved to dismiss the federal lawsuit in its entirety.” Special Agent Ludwick remains with the Iowa DCI, where he has worked for over 22 years. The DCI told Heavy: “The DCI does not comment on any specific person(s) who may or may not be part of an investigation.”
The petition also makes reference to two suspects identified by witnesses in the investigation, who were in the Marion County jail for some time after the murder. Jason’s attorneys indicated in the petition that the jail phone calls were not reviewed: “Agent Ludwick became aware from (a witness) that (one of the suspects referred to above) allegedly confessed to the homicide over a specific jail phone call. Nothing indicates that even this jail call was requested, obtained, and/or preserved.”
None of the allegations made in the petition against Special Agent Ludwick and law enforcement have been confirmed. Heavy reached out to Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt and Marion County Attorney Ed Bull and was informed by both that they could not provide more information on the case due to the pending litigation.
In August 2020, a judge dismissed the federal lawsuit, ruling that Carter was attempting to relitigate his civil lawsuit against his family. However, in July 2021, the federal lawsuit was revived on appeal by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled that the lawsuit was targeting the criminal investigation and not his family’s civil case, the Des Moines Register reported. Carter then dropped his father from the federal lawsuit days after the appeal revived his lawsuit.
According to the Ottumwa Courier, his attorneys said in a statement, “Jason Carter decided to dismiss Bill Carter from the federal lawsuit so Jason and his legal team can concentrate on addressing unconstitutional actions of investigators and the resulting harm to the Carter family.”