Closing Arguments: Self-Defense or Spiteful Murder?

Julie Harper is on trial in the shooting death of her husband, Carlsbad High School teacher Jason Harper in August 2012

Do you believe Julie Harper’s story?

That was the question posed by the prosecutor in his closing argument on Friday in the trial of a Carlsbad woman accused of murdering her husband.

Defendant Harper claims she shot her husband in self-defense during a violent argument because she feared he would kill or rape her. The body of Carlsbad High School math teacher Jason Harper was found in his bedroom on Aug. 7, 2012.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said that if that were true, she wouldn’t have acted like a guilty person, burying the gun used in the shooting, moving her husband’s car as well as moving his body.

“Julie Harper did not shoot her husband out of self-defense,” he said. “She shot him out of anger and spite.”

Jurors heard Watanabe’s closing argument all morning. After lunch, Harper’s defense attorney presented his closing argument.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst has argued Harper’s shooting was justifiable because she feared that she would be raped or killed. The couple was in the midst of what the defense described as a violent struggle. The defense also suggested Harper had endured months of verbal and sexual abuse.

Harper claims pulling the trigger was accidental.

The deputy district attorney described that as “odd.” Why would the defense argue first that Harper had to protect herself and then also say it was an accident?

“If you don’t believe her and think she’s lying, you have to ask yourself why she’s lying,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe then outlined what he said was circumstantial evidence implicating Harper in the murder.

In the week before the killing, Harper filed for divorce against her husband, he said. She also withdrew a large chunk of money from one of her children’s college fund. On the day of the killing,

Harper had a "day of deceit," where she brought her kids to a coffee shop and tried to set up a play date for them.

The defense, however, said she did so to protect her children and get them to safety before she reported the shooting.

"There is no good way to report your (children's) father is dead but there are worse ways for them to find out about that," Pfingst said.

What about burying the gun?, Watanabe argued. If Harper had shot her husband in self-defense, she would have been open with police about the gun and its whereabouts. The killing weapon has never been recovered.

“Guilty people lie, conceal evidence (and) manipulate evidence,” he said. “Innocent people don’t do that because they don’t have to.”

Pfingst' closing argument was cut short and he was not able to address the issue of the gun before court adjourned on Friday afternoon. He will resume on Monday.

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