San Diego Superior Court Judge Blaine Bowman looked Julie Harper in the face and told her that “the interests of justice will not be served” by reducing her sentence. This morning, Wednesday October 24, Julie heard her 40-years-to-life in prison sentence confirmed by the same judge who presided over her trials.
Julie Elizabeth Harper, now 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder after she shot her husband Jason, then 39, in the bedroom of their Carlsbad home, on August 7, 2012.
Before confirmation of her sentence, Julie Harper spoke to the judge. She is a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, and “most importantly” she is the mother of “four amazing children,” she said. Julie read a list of life events that her eldest son will go through, without her being there for him. Julie told the judge, “My mother died in July without me being by her side.” She said that recently her only sister shot and killed herself, in the midst of a bad divorce, and then their long-suffering father found her. And, “I am still unavailable to help my father.” Julie said, “I have lost everything important to me.” She told the judge that besides this murder, she has no criminal record at all. Julie Harper said, “I have always believed in doing the right thing, especially when no one in looking.” Finally, “So today I am asking you for hope and mercy.”
The parents of the murdered man, Lina Harper and Homer Harper, travelled from their home in Los Angeles to be in court today. “It was three years ago that we were writing our first victim impact statements and here we are again,” Lina Harper, 77, said.
Lina and Homer are raising their three grandchildren, and Lina told the judge that they were 8 and 6 and 1 at the time their father was killed. “I would like to tell the court about their progress and their accomplishments, but the children don’t want Julie to know anything about them,” the grandmother said. “They don’t want to hear her voice. They don’t want to receive anything from her. They don’t want to have any reminders of her.” The grandmother said the children fear their mother will try to kidnap them.
“She made them orphans,” Lina Harper told the court. She said the children should not have to worry about Julie getting released early, and then “she comes knocking on their door.”
Lina Harper revealed that for the past four years, Julie Harper has been fighting for her husband’s life insurance money, instead of letting that go to the children; Grandma claims this fight “has cost us over $40,000 in legal fees.”
She particularly thanked the prosecutor, Keith Watanabe, for his tireless work on this case.
Watanabe read three short statements, from each of the children of Jason and Julie Harper. The 15-year-old boy said he feels safe with his grandparents. The 13-year-old daughter stated, “I am a daughter of a murderer” and “I am fully against her getting a lesser sentence” and “She doesn’t deserve to get to see me” and “I will never forgive her.” The youngest boy, now seven, told the judge: “Don’t let Julie out because I am scared of her.” None of the children addressed her as “mother,” but instead used the name “Julie.”
Prosecutor Keith Watanabe revealed that there was a specific directive from the attorney general’s office of California, from Xavier Becerra, which made clear that the AG wanted a new law retroactively applied; this allows California judges discretion in sentencing, so that each judge is not required to apply sentencing enhancements that give longer terms for use of a firearm during crime.
Watanabe revealed that because of new California laws, Julie Harper will now be eligible for “good conduct credits,” and will probably serve 85 percent of her sentence. Watanabe complained that the new laws were not in effect when she committed the crime, nor even at the time of her original sentencing. The deputy district attorney said he accepts the new laws “begrudgingly.”
Julie Harper’s father, John Cihak, read a brief statement to the court. “Today I ask the court to show my daughter mercy.” He said her sentence is too long for a person who lashed out during a chaotic argument, in a marriage that was falling apart. He pointed out, “Everyone makes mistakes.” He asked the judge to notice that Julie has been an ideal prisoner, and she is taking college classes in prison. “Judge Bowman, I beg you to show mercy for my daughter Julie.”