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Julie Harper gets another chance

Appeals decision on six-year-old murder case

Harper during first trial
Harper during first trial

Julie Elizabeth Harper, a Carlsbad housewife who became notorious for shooting her husband in their upstairs bedroom while their children played downstairs, has been granted a new chance at sentencing, by the Fourth District court of appeals in California.

The appellate court has retroactively applied a new law that went into effect January 1, 2018. That new law, passed as Senate Bill 620, and particularly section 1385, gives discretion to judges to strike a firearms enhancement at sentencing, according to the appeals court.

Julie Harper, now 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder for killing her husband Jason Harper, 39, who died August 7, 2012. She testified in her own defense, at two trials, and claimed her husband was abusive. Julie admitted firing one bullet into Jason’s torso.

The appellate court ordered that the original sentencing judge, Honorable Blaine Bowman, will again hear Julie Harper, “for the limited purpose of conducting a new sentencing hearing to exercise its discretion under section 1385 with respect to the firearm enhancements.”

That new sentencing is now set for August 22, in department 12 of San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista, before the same judge who heard both murder trials, Hon. Blaine Bowman.

At her original sentencing, Julie Harper got 15 years to life for second-degree murder, plus 25 years to life for personal use of firearm that resulted in death — a total of 40 years to life. So if the judge now puts aside the “firearms enchancement,” it could decrease Julie Harper’s time in prison by 25 years.

Jurors in the first trial acquitted Julie Harper of first-degree murder, but they did not agree on lesser charges. In a second trial, jurors found Julie Harper guilty of second-degree murder.

In their appeal, Julie Harper’s attorneys asserted that prosecution discriminated by unfairly removing four male jurors from the jury pool. (After the first trial, there was rumor that all five jurors who sympathized with Julie Harper and believed her actions were “self-defense” were male.) But the appellate court dismissed that argument, declaring that prosecution choices “were not biased.”

In the second trial, the jury was seven women and five men.

In its opinion, the appellate court did notice that judge Bowman made it clear at his original sentencing that he did not find Julie Harper credible and he found her testimony to be “self-serving and false.” Judge Bowman declared Julie Harper to be a “danger to society” when he imposed the maximum sentence of 40 years to life.

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Harper during first trial
Harper during first trial

Julie Elizabeth Harper, a Carlsbad housewife who became notorious for shooting her husband in their upstairs bedroom while their children played downstairs, has been granted a new chance at sentencing, by the Fourth District court of appeals in California.

The appellate court has retroactively applied a new law that went into effect January 1, 2018. That new law, passed as Senate Bill 620, and particularly section 1385, gives discretion to judges to strike a firearms enhancement at sentencing, according to the appeals court.

Julie Harper, now 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder for killing her husband Jason Harper, 39, who died August 7, 2012. She testified in her own defense, at two trials, and claimed her husband was abusive. Julie admitted firing one bullet into Jason’s torso.

The appellate court ordered that the original sentencing judge, Honorable Blaine Bowman, will again hear Julie Harper, “for the limited purpose of conducting a new sentencing hearing to exercise its discretion under section 1385 with respect to the firearm enhancements.”

That new sentencing is now set for August 22, in department 12 of San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista, before the same judge who heard both murder trials, Hon. Blaine Bowman.

At her original sentencing, Julie Harper got 15 years to life for second-degree murder, plus 25 years to life for personal use of firearm that resulted in death — a total of 40 years to life. So if the judge now puts aside the “firearms enchancement,” it could decrease Julie Harper’s time in prison by 25 years.

Jurors in the first trial acquitted Julie Harper of first-degree murder, but they did not agree on lesser charges. In a second trial, jurors found Julie Harper guilty of second-degree murder.

In their appeal, Julie Harper’s attorneys asserted that prosecution discriminated by unfairly removing four male jurors from the jury pool. (After the first trial, there was rumor that all five jurors who sympathized with Julie Harper and believed her actions were “self-defense” were male.) But the appellate court dismissed that argument, declaring that prosecution choices “were not biased.”

In the second trial, the jury was seven women and five men.

In its opinion, the appellate court did notice that judge Bowman made it clear at his original sentencing that he did not find Julie Harper credible and he found her testimony to be “self-serving and false.” Judge Bowman declared Julie Harper to be a “danger to society” when he imposed the maximum sentence of 40 years to life.

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Comments
10

But she was such a good girl . . . .

Aug. 7, 2018

Is Julie Harper another Betty Broderick? How does an appellate court retroactively apply a law? Is this a new standard of justice?

Aug. 7, 2018

It's as if this case will just not go away. But the court ruling doesn't say the judge has to change, i.e. reduce, the sentence he passed. A new sentencing hearing has to be held, and I suppose the judge has to listen to some old and retreaded comments. But will he hold any new opinions on the testimony?

There's a good chance he will reaffirm the 25-to-life firearm enhancement. If not, he can still have an enhancement, but could shorten it. Or he could drop it completely. That 15-to-life she got for murder doesn't say 15 years. That "to life" part can mean that parole or release might never be granted. And given her approach to dealing with questions and her testimony could keep her in stir for far longer. At this point nobody knows what will happen, and so we wait and see.

Aug. 7, 2018

I hope Ms. Knott stays on top of this story and reports any changes in sentencing, which would be a result of this new hearing.

Aug. 7, 2018

45? She looks 65.

Aug. 8, 2018

Eva, I love your reporting, however could you elaborate on who/firm/pro bono is furnishing her legal services for this leg of her appeals?

Aug. 8, 2018

Thank you Ponzi. George L. Schraer for Defendant and Appellant, it says on the appellate court decision. However, on the San Diego County District Attorneys' website it says Paul Pfingst, the same counsel who worked both trials, will be there at the (new) sentencing, on August 22, 2018.

Aug. 8, 2018

In a brief hearing Wednesday morning, August 22, 2018, the public defender’s office was assigned to represent Julie Harper. She was not re-sentenced today. Brian Dooley now represents Julie Harper, and the new defender asked for time to obtain transcripts of past proceedings and to become familiar with the case. Keith Watanabe remains as prosecutor. Julie Harper was produced from prison and was present. The next hearing in this matter is set for October 29, 2018, it will be a status conference, not a new sentencing, yet.

Aug. 22, 2018

This past week, on September 19, 2018, convicted murderer Julie Harper got a different, new defense attorney, this one a private hire.

Attorney Gloria Collins will now represent Julie Harper at her new sentencing hearing, now set for this coming Wednesday, October 24, 2018, at 9:30 a.m.

The parents of Jason Harper are expected to travel from their home in Los Angeles to San Diego's North County Superior courthouse, to speak to the judge before the new sentence is announced. Homer and Lina Harper are raising Jason and Julie Harper’s three children; those children are expected to submit letters to the court, which will be read aloud into the record.

Years ago, while she was at liberty between her two murder trials, Julie Harper became pregnant with a baby girl. This 3-year-old child is reportedly being raised by Julie’s elderly father, he is said to be turning 80 soon. Julie Harper’s mother passed away recently.

New defense-attorney Collins is expected to request return of jewelry and other items that were seized as evidence, these items were found in a so-called “get-away-bag” that featured prominently during the trials.

Sept. 21, 2018

New attorney Gloria Collins filed papers with the court asking the judge to dismiss a $10,000 restitution fine assessed against Julie Harper, and to “strike” the personal-use-of-gun allegation which added 25 years to her sentence.

The attorney revealed that Julie Harper earns “between eight and twenty cents an hour” in her prison duties “and that is her only source of money for commissary,” according to her papers filed in support of dismissing fine.

Arguing in favor of a reduced sentence, the attorney stated: “Ms. Harper had no prior record before the shooting, not even a traffic ticket.” And, “Relationships are difficult. A wise man described marriage as bleeding to death from a thousand paper cuts.” And, while Julie has been incarcerated at the women's facility in Chowchilla California, “Ms. Harper has participated in a variety of therapeutic and self-improvement courses.” And, “The reality is Ms. Harper is not a danger to society.”

The attorney remarked that Julie Harper is actually in a hurry: “She is anxious to expedite this re-sentencing.” That is, Julie wants to return to state prison because she cannot get her preferred medications in the local jails; Julie reportedly needs meds that are “anti-inflammatory.”

Sept. 21, 2018

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