March 24, 2015
Mother-Of-Three's Murder Trial Delayed Due To Pregnancy: Manipulating System With IVF?

A California mother-of-three, Julie Harper, is accused of murdering her husband of 11 years while her children were watching cartoons in another room. The judge declared a mistrial in the first case in which Harper was charged with first-degree murder. The jury was leaning towards a charge of second-degree murder but remained in deadlock. Therefore, a new trial was scheduled for April 15. However, Harper's attorney has requested the trial be pushed back further due to the defendant's pregnancy.

The San Diego Reader reports that Julie Harper was initially charged with first-degree murder after shooting her husband of 11 years. Harper claims she shot her husband in self-defense after years of abuse. During the first trial, Harper said she was afraid of her husband, who abused and raped her while they were married. The prosecution, however, claims the murder was premeditated, as Harper packed a "getaway" bag prior to the shooting. The bag contained essentials and passports for Harper and her three children. The jury was deadlocked after the trial, with some leaning towards second-degree murder and others leaning towards first-degree.

After the new trial was set and Harper was out on bond, she allegedly became pregnant via IVF and is due in May. Her doctor says the pregnancy is high-risk so requested the trial be pushed back until after the baby was born. Prosecutor Keith Watanabe has filed papers requesting that the new trial date be denied, as the prosecution believes Harper is using the pregnancy as a means of "manipulating our judicial system."

"Once again, Defendant is engaging in a disturbing manipulation of our criminal justice system. This was an intentional, in-vitro fertilization pregnancy."

The prosecution claims that the pregnancy was intentional and was being used as a way to push back her trial date. In addition to concerns over Harper using the pregnancy as a means to manipulate the system, the persecution also filed court papers that claim the pregnancy may not even be a result of IVF. A neighbor claims that they saw a "man in his underwear" staying in the master bedroom of the home six months ago, a timeline that would fit Harper's current pregnancy.

The prosecution claims that just 17 days after the murder of her husband, Harper sent a letter to a man she called "the love of her life," and they have been together since. The pair are said to be currently engaged.

Despite the pleas from the prosecution and the accusations of Harper "manipulating the judicial system," Superior Court Judge Blaine K. Bowman agreed to change the date to September 8, well after Harper's expected due date. However, if found guilty of second-degree murder, Harper could still face up to 40 years in prison, new baby or not.

What do you think of the judge pushing back the trial date due to an IVF pregnancy? Should pregnancy, particularly by IVF, be grounds for a new trial date? Do you think Harper was intentionally trying to manipulate the judicial system with an IVF pregnancy?

[Image Credit: Good Morning America]