News & Features

Kalispell Man Accused of Murder Pleads Not Guilty to Amended Charge

New trial for Ryan Lamb pushed back again

Ryan Lamb, the 34-year-old Kalispell man accused of stabbing and killing his partner last year, pleaded not guilty to an amended charge of negligent homicide in Flathead County District Court on Aug. 21.

The new arraignment came more than two months after Lamb’s murder trial resulted in a hung jury. Lamb was expected to stand trial for a second time in September, but it has since been rescheduled for a later date while the court considers a motion to dismiss the case.

Prosecutors alleged that Lamb stabbed and killed his partner, Ryan Nixon, 31, with scissors during a sexual encounter 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, 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.

Lamb is still charged with deliberate homicide and the negligent homicide charge has been added as an alternative, meaning a jury could convict him of the lesser charge.

After the trial, one of the jurors, Nikki Streeter, told the Beacon she thought Lamb should be held accountable for killing Nixon, but she struggled with the county attorney’s decision to charge him with deliberate homicide.

Asked if she thought Lamb would have been convicted had the Flathead County Attorney’s Office charged him with negligent homicide, she said, “it would have been over in 15 minutes.”

“The deliberate homicide charge made it much more difficult for us,” she said. “It was never a question in my mind that he was guilty; it just came down to the fact that he was charged with deliberate homicide.”

A month after the trial, 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.

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.

The judge has yet to rule on the motion.

Lamb is currently out on bail.

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