VISTA — Julie Haper faces at least 40 years in prison.
The 42-year-old Carlsbad woman was found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday at the Vista Superior Court after a jury reached a verdict in her retrial for killing her husband.
She will be sentenced Nov. 5, with a mandatory sentence of 40 years to life in prison. Harper will be eligible for parole after serving 40 years. She was remanded to custody with no bail.
Julie Harper pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder at the start of the five-week trial and testified she shot her 39-year-old husband, Jason Harper, accidently after she feared for her safety during an argument on Aug. 7, 2012.
Jason Harper was a math teacher and volleyball coach at Carlsbad High School.
She claimed her husband beat and raped her, although Deputy District Attorney Ken Watanabe said no evidence suggested, either in Julie Harper’s diary or testimony from friends and family.
Instead, Watanabe said Julie Harper manipulated the court system including hiding her pregnancy, which forced a delay in the trial.
“He was a wonderful father, son and a brother,” the DA said. “Julie Harper is a selfish woman who cared more about herself than she did about her family. She was willing to drag her husband’s name through the mud and even sacrifice her children through the process.”
Harper’s attorney, Paul Pfingst, said the difference in this trial was a new jury and no testimony was identical to the first trial; although he said it was difficult to focus on one aspect.
Watanabe, though, said he knew what the defense would be, how to prepare and counter Harper’s claims.
“We disproved it by looking through various aspects of her journals and writings,” he explained.
However, Pfingst said domestic violence cases are something the country is struggling how to deal with, along with the preconceptions of how a battered woman should act.
He also said an appeal may be likely.
“If she doesn’t behave that way, I think that is something that is difficult to explain to people,” Pfingst said. “Obviously, Julie Harper testified she didn’t report her abuse. As disappointed as I am, I am respectful of the jury’s verdict.”
In 2014, a jury acquitted Julie Harper of first-degree murder, but deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal of second-degree murder.
During the retrial, Julie Harper took the stand and said she shook her husband after shooting him with a .38-caliber Derringer, but saw no response. After the shooting, Harper took her kids — who were downstairs watching TV — and left the home. She discarded the weapon, which was never recovered.
Watanabe said he believes the weapon is in the Scripps Ranch area, where cellphone towers pinned Harper’s location after the shooting.
“We used cellphone tower records provided by the FBI,” he said. “We proved her story wasn’t true. She simply didn’t go to her lawyer’s office, then go to Normal Heights and bury the gun by her father’s office, as she claimed.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.