Posted: Nov 3, 2011 1:34 PM by AP News
Updated: Nov 3, 2011 1:39 PM
A state district judge has declared a mistrial in the second-degree murder case of a man accused in a 22-year-old killing in Lafayette Parish.
The Advocate reports ( http://bit.ly/ukyJkR ) Judge Edward D. Rubin ruled Wednesday that Daniel Joseph Harmon failed to make an on-the-record waiver of his right to a jury trial before the bench trial began Tuesday. Harmon is accused of sexually assaulting and shooting to death 19-year-old Christine Marie Wood on July 25, 1989.
Harmon was indicted in the killing in May 2006 after his DNA matched a semen sample taken at the crime scene. Harmon's attorney, Alfred F. Boustany II, said in an email Wednesday that the U.S. Constitution requires defendants to formally waive their right to a jury trial. "The criminal record in this case showed no on-the-record election by the defendant so the judge had to grant our motion for a mistrial," Boustany said.
Prosecutor Keith Stutes said Harmon, through his attorney, requested a judge trial during an earlier proceeding in August. On Wednesday, Boustany said his client wanted a jury trial and that there had not been a formal waiving of the jury, Stutes said.
During a court hearing in 2006, Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office cold case detective Jean St. Pierre testified that Harmon forced his way into Wood's apartment, where he sexually assaulted her, cut her throat and shot her three times in the head. Harmon lived next door to Wood but denied ever having seen the woman, the detective testified.
In a motion to quash the indictment, Boustany argues that the time delay between the offense and the indictment, and the delay in bringing the case to trial has deprived Harmon of his ability to present a defense in the case.
Boustany writes that the victim lived a lifestyle of drug use and sexual promiscuity and that at least two other people have admitted killing her. He argues that the state will try to hide the fact of the victim's lifestyle and the evidence that clears the defendant by not presenting that evidence. Rubin denied the motion to quash. The trial has been rescheduled to Jan. 30.