SAN DIEGO (CN) - A San Diego woman who gained national attention for killing her schoolteacher husband then became pregnant through in vitro fertilization while awaiting trial was sentenced to 40 years to life on Friday.
Julie Elizabeth Harper, 42, appeared before San Diego Superior Court Judge Blaine Bowman to learn her fate in the shooting death of her 39-year-old husband Jason Harper on Aug. 7, 2012.
Last November, a jury found Harper guilty of second-degree murder after she was first acquitted of first-degree murder in 2014.
Harper's attorney Paul Pfingst asked Bowman to order a new trial and to reduce his client's charges to manslaughter, arguing she shot her husband unintentionally during the heat of an argument.
Bowman rejected both requests.
A single shot to the torso killed Jason. Harper had filed for divorce less than a week before the murder and had been taking out large sums of cash in the days leading up to the murder, Bowman said.
"The testimony of the defendant is the only support for heat of passion," Bowman said. "The defendant's story she testified to lacks the most important element and that's credibility."
Harper buried the gun she used to kill Jason,testifying she "wanted to preserve the evidence for trial." The weapon was never found.
She did not administer aid or call 911 after she shot Jason, but rather piled clothes and blankets on top of his body immediately after shooting him, Bowman said.
"A reasonable spouse would not murder someone over a heated argument or we would have a lot more manslaughter charges," Bowman told Harper when he denied her request for a new trial.
San Diego County District Attorney Keith Watanabe read statements from Jason Harper's family and the Harper children.
Jason's parents said that Jason's older children said they want to teach their younger brother about their father and share things their father would have shared.
In a letter to the court, 10-year-old Jacquie Harper said she feels she no longer has a mother.
"I want to say I no longer have a mother," Jacquie said in her statement. "Because you killed our father you are no longer mom - you are Julie. I will never call you mom again."
Jason's elderly parents, 74 and 84 respectively, have since adopted the couple's three children who are now 12, 10 and 5. The child Harper gave birth to last year is now in the custody of her father.
Watanabe has worked on the case for over three years and said he believes the jury made the right call in finding Harper guilty.
"I believe they were a smart jury with life experience and could see through the defendant's lies," he said. "This was a selfish act. The defendant was hurt and angered by Jason but she decided her hurt and anger mattered more than Jason's life."
Harper gave a lengthy 30-minute appeal to Judge Bowman, pointing out what happened leading up her husband's murder including the abuse she claims to have endured and her disappointment with her children's placement with Child Protective Services.
"A ... B ... C ... D ... Another Behind Closed Doors," Harper began.
"My husband was another man behind closed doors. I have no case that he wasn't a good son to his parents, but he was another man to me. I'm still recovering from everything he did to me all those years."
Harper maintained her innocence, saying she accidently shot Jason, though the safety was off when she pointed the loaded gun at him.
Harper also poked holes at the argument she didn't have "proof" of the abuse.
"Sorry I didn't have a nanny cam to catch some of the vulgar, degrading things he did to me," she said.
"In the shock of the moment I never intended to kill him. I only thought of my children and sparing them pain for the rest of their lives. "
Watanabe said Harper's defense that she killed Jason in self-defense didn't hold up, because the wounds suffered by her husband indicate he was shot from behind.
Harper claimed Jason raped her more than 30 times but that she never reported the abuse because she was embarrassed and feared pressing charges against him would cause him to lose his job as a Carlsbad High School teacher.
A Dateline special on the Harper case is set to air later this month on NBC.Follow @@BiancaDBruno
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