DES MOINES — A Polk County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jason Carter against the lead investigating agent that pursued charges against him for his mother’s murder.
Carter was ultimately acquitted of the killing by a jury in March 2018. He filed lawsuits in state and federal courts claiming investigators violated his rights through false arrest and malicious prosecution that were defamatory. Both lawsuits have now been dismissed.
The lawsuit filed in state court was against Mark Ludwick, a lead agent from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the state of Iowa. In a 34-page decision filed earlier this month, Fifth Judicial District Judge William Kelly tossed the lawsuit in its entirety.
The case became a national story after Carter’s father sued him in civil court for wrongful death in connection with the June 2015 killing of his mother, Shirley Carter, in rural Lacona.
Carter was found liable by the Marion County Jury for the killing, and soon after the December 2017 verdict, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Since his acquittal on that charge by a jury in Poweshiek County, he has unsuccessfully sought to overturn that civil verdict, which carried a $10 million penalty due to his mother’s estate. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the civil verdict earlier this year.
In his opinion filed on June 3, Kelly wrote that the court lacked jurisdiction to settle the claims against Ludwick and the state of Iowa. Kelly supported the arguments by defendants that the Iowa Tort Claims Act gives them immunity against claims of false arrest, abuse of process and/or malicious prosecution.
“At every juncture of the judicial process probable cause was found,” Kelly wrote in reference to the steps law enforcement took to secure a warrant for Carter’s arrest. “The Court concludes due care was taken to comply with the law and therefore Ludwick, and vicariously the state, are qualifiedly [immune] from all false-arrest claims ..."
To Carter’s challenge that the arrest warrant obtained against him was not constitutionally valid, the judge disagreed.
During the civil trial, Carter testified he never touched evidence at the crime scene, yet his prints were located on the evidence. Additionally, investigators said Carter had testified things that no person would know other than those present at the time of the crime.
A federal judge dismissed Carter’s federal lawsuit against his father and investigators last year on jurisdictional grounds, a decision the Carter team of attorneys are currently appealing.