News & Features

Month After Mistrial, Kalispell Man Accused of Murder Asks Judge to Drop Charge

New trial for Ryan Lamb scheduled for September; judge reduces bail to $15,000

Ryan Lamb, the 34-year-old Kalispell man accused of stabbing his partner to death in August 2018, has asked a Flathead County judge to dismiss the case against him just weeks after a jury was unable to reach a verdict at trial.

On July 8, defense attorney Alisha Backus filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that having Lamb stand trial again would be a violation of the double jeopardy clause of the constitution.

Lamb is currently scheduled to stand trial for the second time starting Sept. 23.

Prosecutors alleged that Lamb stabbed and killed his partner, Ryan Nixon, 31, with scissors while having sex in August 2018. But the defense argued that Lamb was acting in self-defense. Lamb stood trial in early June. After nine days of testimony and 13 hours of deliberation, the jury voted 11 not guilty to one guilty, resulting in a mistrial. At the time, the members of the jury said they were unable to reach a verdict because they had questions about the law. Judge Robert Allison said he was unable to give the jury further instructions.

In her motion to dismiss the case, Backus argues the judge should have answered the jury’s questions instead of declaring a mistrial. Backus argued that it was particularly erroneous given that the jury was clearly making progress toward an acquittal. According to the motion to dismiss, the jury had previously voted eight not guilty and four guilty before continuing to deliberate.

“The court erred in not giving additional guidance to the jury to try to render a verdict when the foreperson indicated the jury could make progress with some definitions,” Backus writes.

Backus concludes that because Allison improperly declared a mistrial, having her client stand trial again would be a violation of the double jeopardy clause.

Allison has not yet ruled on the motion to dismiss.

On July 8, Allison reduced Lamb’s bail from $300,000 to $15,000. Lamb will be required to live at a family residence in Whitefish. As of Tuesday afternoon, Lamb had not yet posted bail and he remained incarcerated in the Flathead County Detention Center.

During the hearing, Deputy County Attorney Allison Howard said it was possible prosecutors would file an amended charge against Lamb, presumably felony negligent homicide. Lamb is scheduled to appear at an omnibus hearing on Aug. 7 and pretrial conference Aug. 21.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to www.beaconeditorsclub.com, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.