Montana Supreme Court reverses attempted homicide conviction

Posted at 7:49 PM, January 4, 2022 and last updated 8:50 PM, July 21, 2023

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has reversed a Miles City man’s conviction for attempted deliberate homicide for threatening to stab a bar owner in the heart while the defendant sat handcuffed in the back of a law enforcement vehicle.

The justices, in a 4-1 decision issued on Dec. 28, said Banner Lee Boyd did not take any overt actions toward killing the bar owner and thus the state had not proven its case. The order sends the case back to District Court for the attempted deliberate homicide charge to be dismissed.

Banner Lee Boyd (Montana Dept. of Corrections)

The case began when Boyd was kicked out of a bar in Miles City in July 2018 and continued to argue with the bar’s owner outside. A police officer saw the confrontation and pulled over just after Boyd walked across the street to his apartment.

Bar owner Jess Nelson told Officer Ryan Ketchum that Boyd said he was going to return and Nelson believed Boyd was going to come back with a weapon. Nelson eventually motioned to Boyd to came down to talk to the officer, court records said.

Boyd began “swatting” Ketchum’s hands as he was giving dispatchers Boyd’s identification information, court records said. Ketchum pushed Boyd against a wall and handcuffed him, but Boyd resisted and the two men ended up on the ground.

Nelson eventually helped Ketchum subdue Boyd and get him into Ketchum’s car, which is when Ketchum discovered Boyd had a knife in his waistband.

Nelson asked Boyd what he was going to do with the knife and Boyd replied, “stab you in the heart,” court records said.

A jury convicted Boyd of attempted deliberate homicide and assaulting a peace officer in February 2019. District Judge Michael Hayworth sentenced Boyd to 80 years in prison on the first charge and 10 years on the second.

Boyd appealed and the justices ruled that because he did not try to stab Nelson, the state did not have enough evidence to prove its case.

“A conviction for attempted deliberate homicide requires more than possibly threatening to kill someone and then standing outside your house with a knife concealed down your pants,” Justice Ingrid Gustafson wrote for the majority. “Boyd may have been prepared to kill Nelson by getting a knife, but he made no overt actions towards attempting to actually kill him with it.”

Justice Jim Rice dissented, arguing the justices should not substitute their judgment for that of the jury, which heard the evidence and determined Boyd’s actions met the elements of the crime.

Boyd, 44, continues to serve his 10-year sentence on the assault charge.

More In: