-- A California mother of three was found not guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the death of her high-school-teacher husband, with a mistrial declared.
Jurors deadlocked on whether Julie Harper, 41, should be convicted on lesser charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2012 shooting of Jason Harper. Prosecutors haven’t made a decision yet on whether to re-try the case on the lesser charges.
Prosecutors argued that Harper shot and killed her husband during a fight in the couple’s Carlsbad, California, home. Instead of calling for help, prosecutors said, Harper took off with their three children and a getaway bag, driving around town before turning herself in 16 hours later.
“The children, say 8 or 9 a.m., they were downstairs watching cartoons when they heard a thud and heard their dad yell, ‘Ahh,’ and then a thump on the floor,” Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said.
Prosecutors said the couple argued frequently about her weight gain, as well as finances. Five days before the killing, prosecutors said, Julie Harper filed for divorce and allegedly withdrew nearly $20,000.
Julie Harper said the shooting was an accident, maintaining she was a victim of domestic abuse.
“He would just be in an absolute fury, in his rage, yelling and screaming,” she said.
Jurors also heard recordings that Harper made during her husband’s alleged rants, recordings alleged to feature Jason Harper screaming obscenities at his wife and demeaning her.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Michael Kraut said that the domestic abuse claims made it difficult for jurors to convict Harper.
“If a jury hears evidence that the victim shot her husband because she was in fear of being verbally and physically abused, they are gonna use that to find her not guilty of the crime of first-degree murder,” Kraut said.