After jury chosen, Howard tries to fire lawyers

After 12 jurors and three alternates had been chosen to hear evidence in his murder trial, D'Andre Howard informed the judge Tuesday that he wanted to fire his assistant public defenders and represent himself.

Howard told Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort he did not agree with his attorneys' selection of the last six jurors and wanted an opportunity to interview additional prospective jurors.

“I would like to go through another jury selection,” said Howard, 25, charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 slayings of three members of the Engelhardt family in their Hoffman Estates home.

Mandletort emphatically denied his request, pointing out that Howard interacted and consulted with his attorneys, whom she described as very experienced public defenders whose responsibility it is “to select a jury that is fair and impartial.”

“This court believes they have done that job,” Mandletort said, adding she believed Howard's statement was a “tactic to delay your day in court.”

“This court will not allow it,” she said. “You asked for your day in court, and you are going to get it.”

Howard is accused of murdering 18-year-old Conant High School senior Laura Engelhardt of Hoffman Estates, her 57-year-old father Alan, and her maternal grandmother Marlene Gacek, 73, and of seriously injuring Shelly Engelhardt, Alan's wife and Laura's mother.

Howard was the boyfriend of oldest daughter Amanda Engelhardt at the time of the April 17, 2009, deaths and has a child with her. Amanda Engelhardt and the child were not injured.

Prosecutors say Howard stabbed the family members after a middle-of-the- night argument between him and Amanda at the family home.

Defense attorneys will argue Howard was insane, saying he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder — the result of childhood sexual and physical abuse — which made him unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct that day.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. today at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

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