Even though a jury acquitted her of first-degree murder at the end of a trial two weeks ago, Carlsbad housewife Julie Harper could still face the possibility of 40 years in prison if she is convicted of second-degree murder in a retrial, a prosecutor said after a hearing today, October 15.
Prosecutor Keith Watanabe said the sentence for second-degree murder is 15 years to life, and the special allegation of personal use of a firearm during the crime could add another 25-years to any sentence, upon conviction.
Harper, 41, did testify during her trial last month, and she admitted shooting her husband Jason Harper, 39, in their Carlsbad home more than two years ago. She claimed that she was the victim of verbal abuse and rapes during their ten-year marriage, and she didn’t remember actually pulling the trigger.
Today, judge Blaine K. Bowman, who heard the first trial, set April 15, 2015, as the new trial date.
During today’s hearing, private defense attorney Paul Pfingst requested the court to allow removal of an “ankle bracelet” that the defendant currently wears as a condition of bond. She has been at liberty for more than a year.
Pfingst declared that the GPS monitor costs the defendant’s family $300 to $400 per month, which is adding “stress on the family finances.” Pfingst also asked the bail amount to be reduced, to “free up some of the collateral” that could then be used “for defense expenditures” needed to prepare for the next trial.
Judge Bowman agreed to removal of the monitor, but the judge did not reduce the bail amount, which stands at $2 million.
Pfingst also asked for a change to Julie Harper’s travel restrictions; the attorney complained that the notoriety of the case causes Julie to be “recognized” and “under a microscope” here in San Diego County. But Judge Bowman denied the defendant unrestricted movement in Los Angeles County, where the parents of the deceased man now live and care for the three small children of Julie and Jason.
Judge Bowman reminded Julie Harper that there is a “stay-away order” and that she must not attempt to contact her in-laws or her children.
The judge confirmed that the defendant’s passport had been surrendered, and he spoke directly to Harper, saying, “And you are ordered not to leave the country, do you understand that?” Harper answered, “Yes, your honor.”