Carlsbad woman who shot husband acquitted of first-degree murder; Mistrial on lesser counts

VISTA (CNS) – A Carlsbad woman who shot her schoolteacher-husband in the couple’s home during an argument was acquitted Wednesday of first-degree murder, and jurors deadlocked on lesser charges.

Julie Elizabeth Harper, 41, could have faced 50 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the Aug. 7, 2012, shooting death of 39-year-old Jason Harper, a math teacher and volleyball coach at Carlsbad High School.

On the third day of deliberations, Judge Blaine Bowman declared a mistrial on the lesser charges against Harper. The jury voted 9-3 for acquittal on second-degree murder and 7-5 for guilty on voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

A status conference was set for Oct. 15, when a retrial date could be set.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe told jurors the defendant killed her husband during an argument while their three young children watched cartoons downstairs, then — instead of calling for help — left the home with the children and a “getaway bag.”

Harper testified that she shot her husband in self-defense because she was trying to stop him from sexually assaulting or otherwise harming her.

Harper, a stay-at-home mom, also testified that her husband had been verbally and physically abusive in their volatile marriage of more than a decade and had raped her at least 30 times.

“I didn’t even intend to shoot him. I only wanted to scare him or to make him stop — not rape me, not hurt me or possibly even worse,” she testified during cross-examination.

Harper — who had filed divorce papers five days before the shooting — surrendered to police at her father’s Scripps Ranch home the day after her husband was killed.

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