Closing arguments began Tuesday and continued Wednesday in the retrial of a Carlsbad woman who killed her husband at their home three years ago while their children were in another room watching cartoons.
Julie Harper admitted to shooting and killing her husband, Jason Harper, in their North County home on Aug. 27, 2012, but claims she did it in self-defense, alleging that she feared Jason would kill or rape her.
As the retrial resumed Tuesday morning, a judge read the definitions of rape to the courtroom. Jurors were reminded there are seven possible outcomes for this case covering guilty and not guilty verdicts, including voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder.
During his turn, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said the wounds suffered by Jason show he was shot from behind — not killed in self-defense.
“Jason turned to get away, to get out of the line of fire, but Julie made a choice to pull the trigger of her Derringer — shoot and fire at Jason,” said Watanabe. “Julie killed Jason; murdered Jason Harper.”
The Deputy DA went on to argue that Julie has lied and that there’s zero history of abuse against her from Jason, but that “Julie says [Jason] was a rapist without anyone knowing.”
Watanabe said Julie lied that in her journals, she used the word “sex” as a code word for “rape,” when writing about sexual encounters with her husband. He also said she lied about the couple’s children being scared of Jason.
Julie's attorney, Paul Pfingst, delivered his closing argument Wednesday, telling the jury once more that his client killed her husband in self-defense.
He said Julie buried the gun she used to shoot Jason out of panic, not guilt.
"Innocent people know that they may not believed and they know that their life is about to take a dramatic turn for the worse," said Pfingst.
He said his client used bad judgment in burying the gun before going to police, thinking she would be out of jail in a few days and could turn it over then. The gun has never been found.
Last week, Julie testified in her own retrial for three days straight, offering graphic details of the alleged abuse in her troubled marriage that ultimately drove her to kill her husband.
Under oath, Julie claimed the years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of Jason included him allegedly raping her more than 30 times. Julie said she began to keep a journal of the times her husband would get angry and the times he allegedly raped her.
Julie said she used the word “sex” as a code for “rape” in her writings. Prosecutors questioned those writings, particularly how Julie could tell, in reading her own journal, the difference between the times Jason allegedly raped her and the times she had consensual sex with her husband.
Julie claimed all of the encounters she recorded in her journal were rape, as she didn’t keep track of times they had consensual sex.
On the stand, Julie claimed she never reported the abuse because she was “embarrassed” and feared pressing charges against Jason would cause him to lose his job as a Carlsbad high school teacher, and thus impact the family’s finances, which were already rocky.
During her testimony on Sept. 30, Julie recounted the exact moment when she shot her husband to death after they got into an intense argument and she told him she had filed for divorce.
“I turned around and saw him coming toward me. He said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ I told him to stop. I heard a loud noise and felt [the gun] jerk. He froze, stopped and fell forward,” she testified.
“I ran into the bathroom because I thought he would come after me. [He was] completely still — no movement. I began shaking him and felt no movement,” she continued.
Julie said she didn’t know how to tell her children, who were in another room, that their dad was dead. She didn’t want them to see his body, so she covered Jason with a blanket and other items.
She testified that after the murder, she dropped the kids off at her sister’s house, went to a local coffee shop and visited her father at his office. She told her father her husband was dead, and he told her they needed to call police and hire a lawyer.
In her self-defense stance, Julie claimed she had become so afraid of Jason that in the weeks leading up to his killing she had packed a getaway bag, put cash aside for an escape and had taken her Derringer gun out of a safe and put it under her pillow in case she needed to protect herself from him.
In her retrial testimony, Julie also said she suffers from medical conditions, including Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Medications she has taken for those conditions have caused side effects, she said, including weight gain. She claimed Jason often attacked her weight and called her “fat” and “lazy,” and believed she was faking her medical problems.
Julie was acquitted on first-degree murder charges in her first trial last October. Prosecutors sought to retry her, and she now faces second-degree murder charges in her retrial that began three weeks ago.
Over the course of her retrial, many witnesses have taken the stand, delivering emotional accounts. This has included Jason’s mother and very tearful brother, neighbors and the couple’s children.
When Julie shot Jason, the couple’s children were home, watching television in another room. During testimony last month, the couple’s son said he heard a “thud” as his mother killed his father. The couple’s daughter testified that when they went to check on their parents, her mother told them their father was dead.
Although Julie admits she killed her husband in self-defense, the prosecution argues that Julie added to the couple’s tumultuous family life by frivolously spending money when the couple was experiencing financial problems.
Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday.
By 3:35 p.m., the San Diego County District Attorney's Office said the jury had started deliberations.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Julie faces 40 years to life in prison.