Pistol-packing housewife

“She couldn’t take it anymore.”

Julie Harper and Paul Pfingst
  • Julie Harper and Paul Pfingst

Julie Harper killed her husband Jason with a two-shot derringer that her father had given her for self-protection when she was going to college in the 1990s, according to her attorney who spoke to jurors this morning, September 15.

Attorneys for both sides gave opening statements in the murder trial of a Carlsbad housewife who, two years ago, reportedly shot her husband in the master bedroom of their home while their children played downstairs.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst claimed that Julie Harper was a “devout Catholic” who resisted the idea of divorce but finally, “She couldn’t take it anymore.” The privately retained attorney claimed that Jason Harper “grew to hate” his wife and called her a “fat pig” and he yelled and swore at her in front of their three children.

Pfingst confirmed that he expected his client would take the witness box. “I just ask that you wait for Julie Harper to testify,” Pfingst said, “before you make up your mind.”

Prosecutor Keith Watanabe told jurors that actions speak louder than words, and he carefully detailed a timetable of Julie Harper’s activities on August 7, 2012, the day of the shooting.

Watanabe also said, “This case is very much about the deterioration of Julie Harper.” The deputy district attorney claimed that, before the shooting, she had become a recluse and spent most of her days in bed or in her home; he listed some of the prescription medications she reportedly used.

Julie Harper is now 41; Jason was 39 at the time of his death.

The trial is expected to last three weeks in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.

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She looks kinda like (ex) husband killer Betty Broderick.

Michele - so do I but I still wouldn't stay in the same home and kill him.

The truth is almost certainly that they grew to hate each other. Like what happens in countless other marriages that, thankfully, end in divorce and not homicide.

When she's on the stand, she better become the best actress in the history of ever, or else her decision to go to trial instead of plea bargain will look foolish.

There is no indication that prosecutor Keith Watanabe ever offered any kind of plea deal. With crafty Pfingst and ultra-competent Watanabe, this is an excellent match between attorneys.

Despite ones religious bent God does not pick our spouses we do. For better or worse and when it is worse get a divorce. You will survive a divorce but maybe not a trial. Been there done that (divorce) and it was not a fun thing. She and I survived and went on with our lives. Sometimes you grow together and sometimes you grow apart. It is the human condition no matter what some preacher says.

As one commenter has previously remarked, the forensic evidence should be clear cut. It will indicate where exactly the bullet entered the husband's body, what position his body was in at the time, how far away the gun was from his skin when it went off, what angle the shooter fired from and possibly a few other interesting details. When the jury hears these details, the prosecutor may need all his "ultra-competence" to still make it look like the victim was shot in the back as he walked peacefully away. On the other hand, "crafty" Pfingst could "trick" the jury into believing that a struggle had gone on between husband and wife. Then that old red herring, the blue "get-away bag" may begin to look more like the marriage-escape hatch that the accused claims it was all along.

None of the evidence made public to date is consistent with the kind of violent life-threatening physical struggle that would be required to legally call this killing "self defense".

The defendant's conduct after the killing -- barring the door, lying about what happened, hiding the weapon so well that it hasn't even been found yet, burying the body under blankets and clothes in the bedroom, not calling 911 after the shooting, stashing the cash and passports, not notifying police to check the house until long after the victim was surely dead from the gunshot wound -- all of those facts have already been made public. Those facts are more consistent with someone who shot the victim and wanted the victim to stay undiscovered until after he was dead, instead of being saved by medical treatment. It is going to be challenging for the defendant and her attorney to square all of that away, whether they are crafty or competent or whatever.

Bombshell from prosecution today: Julie Harper had been sending letters and communicating with an old lover from her college days. And that man was selected as godfather for one of her children. By the time of the shooting, Julie said that man, named Jerome, was her best friend of any person, man or woman. After Julie had been in custody for two weeks, she sent a newsy postcard to this old lover, and signed off with the acronym TLOML, which she said means The Love of My Life. Court adjourned for the day, Tuesday September 23, 2014, and prosecutor will resume questioning the witness-defendant tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.

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