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Julie Harper not guilty of first-degree murder

Jurors deadlocked on lesser homicide charges

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst and Julie Harper, October 1, 2014
Defense attorney Paul Pfingst and Julie Harper, October 1, 2014

Julie Harper was declared not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband Jason, in court today, October 1, 2014. The defendant’s parents, John and Donna Cihak, were in the courtroom to hug their daughter after the verdict was announced.

Judge Blaine Bowman declared a mistrial on the remaining possible degrees of homicide, second-degree murder or manslaughters.

The judge set a court date of October 15 to consider dismissing the remaining charges or to possibly to set a date for new trial.

Julie Harper remains at liberty on bond, and presumably will return to her home on Badger Lane – the same place where her husband was found dead of a single gunshot wound on August 7, 2012.

Before they were excused, jurors were questioned by Judge Bowman. The jury foreman told the judge that they took at least ten different votes since they began deliberating two days ago.

The jury foreman said their most recent vote counts were: nine to three favoring not guilty on the second-degree murder charge; seven to five favoring guilty of voluntary manslaughter; and seven to five favoring guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor Keith Watanabe declined comment after court was adjourned.

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Defense attorney Paul Pfingst and Julie Harper, October 1, 2014
Defense attorney Paul Pfingst and Julie Harper, October 1, 2014

Julie Harper was declared not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband Jason, in court today, October 1, 2014. The defendant’s parents, John and Donna Cihak, were in the courtroom to hug their daughter after the verdict was announced.

Judge Blaine Bowman declared a mistrial on the remaining possible degrees of homicide, second-degree murder or manslaughters.

The judge set a court date of October 15 to consider dismissing the remaining charges or to possibly to set a date for new trial.

Julie Harper remains at liberty on bond, and presumably will return to her home on Badger Lane – the same place where her husband was found dead of a single gunshot wound on August 7, 2012.

Before they were excused, jurors were questioned by Judge Bowman. The jury foreman told the judge that they took at least ten different votes since they began deliberating two days ago.

The jury foreman said their most recent vote counts were: nine to three favoring not guilty on the second-degree murder charge; seven to five favoring guilty of voluntary manslaughter; and seven to five favoring guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutor Keith Watanabe declined comment after court was adjourned.

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Comments
4

So the jury, who took the case on Monday, managed to vote "at least" ten different times in less than 20 hours... a vote almost every two hours. They didn't take much time to discuss the problems they found with the testimony and evidence, they just wanted to vote and be done with it. Yes, this jury like so many was lazy and had its collective heads up its ass. This is an example of why the jury system is being banished in so many countries. Justice isn't served anymore. The courtroom is a theater and experienced actors like Paul Pfingst (rhymes with stinks) mesmerize the gullible. Fortunately, she will be tried again. Even if she never gets convicted, the transfer of wealth from her family to Mr. Pfingst will be epic.

Oct. 1, 2014

Perhaps it was premature to call prosecutor Watanabe "ultra-competent", given the failure to get any conviction at all from this jury. And the jury obviously didn't show a lot of smarts or diligence.

The judge deserves raspberries, too, for allowing the defendant's father to coach her testimony from the front row of the gallery. Good judges don't allow stuff like that to happen.

Bad show all around. None of them should be proud of themselves.

Oct. 2, 2014

There are two features to this case that need to be noted. First is that this judge consistently ruled in favor of the defense during the pretrial phase. That tilted the likely outcome to a great degree. If more antics, as Matt101 claims, went on in the courtroom, there was a high degree of likelihood that a jury would head into "deliberations" confused and polarized. Watanabe was presenting a case with one hand tied behind his back, and the results showed that.

The second, as enunciated by Ponzi, with whom I agree, is that this jury didn't do its job, i.e. "deliberate." A number of them went into the jury room with their minds made up, and there was no real systematic consideration of the evidence. A good jury foreman can make the difference in there, in his/her insisting that they make a careful consideration of the entire body of testimony. One sure-fire way to end up deadlocked is to have ballots taken before all the evidence has been evaluated. In only two days, it is obvious that real deliberations didn't occur. Emotion ruled here, and little else.

Pfingsto's gamble of putting her on the stand worked. He's no genius, and that doesn't mean that he'll be so fortunate in retrial. Oh, and as far as retrial goes, a new judge will almost certainly be assigned to the case, and all the restrictions placed on the DA will be open for review. The next time around things could, and likely will be, different.

Oct. 4, 2014

Prosecutor Keith Watanabe issued a statement today, regarding the hearing next week before Judge Blaine Bowman, who heard the first trial. The deputy district attorney stated, "We’re going to be setting a trial date" and "I’m preparing to re-try defendant on the remaining charges." Watanabe confirmed the charge of second-degree murder, which technically includes consideration of the lesser-included-offenses of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Hearing is set for 9 a.m. in San Diego's North County Superior Courthouse on Wednesday October 15, presumably Julie Harper will be there, as well as attorneys.

Oct. 9, 2014

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