Rejecting the argument that Walter Thomas Harding killed his estranged girlfriend and her new boyfriend in the heat of passion, a Howard County jury found him guilty yesterday of two counts of first degree murder.
After deliberating for six hours, the jury decided that Harding, 29, did not act impulsively when he shot 21-year-old Carmini S. Jackson and 21-year-old Charles Andre Mann in the parking lot of a Columbia apartment complex on June 29, 1989.
The state is seeking the death penalty in the case. The sentencing phase of the trial will begin on Monday. This will be the second capital case to come before a Howard County jury in a week.
Eric Joseph Tirado was spared a death sentence on Monday for killing Maryland State Police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf. Tirado was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Harding's identity as the killer was not in question during the eight-day trial. The defense acknowledged that Harding shot Ms. Jackson and Mr. Mann in front of a group of 12 people.
In closing arguments yesterday, attorneys asked the jury to focus their attention on whether Harding was a cold-blooded killer who planned the shootings, or a desperate man who fired the shots in a moment of violent passion.
Assistant State's Attorney Gary Weissner said that Harding had decided to kill Mr. Mann and Ms. Jackson "a good long time before he fired the shots."
He reminded the jury of the testimony of Ms. Jackson's father, Frank Jackson, who said that Harding came to his house the night of the shootings and told him, " 'I'm going to kill them both.' "
"He wants to possess stuff, he wants to possess people," Mr. Weissner said. "If they don't do what he wants them to do, he does it his way."
"Shawni [the nickname of Carmini S. Jackson] wasn't doing what he wanted her to do and he killed her."
Assistant Public Defender Louis P. Willemin portrayed Harding as a man so distraught over losing Ms. Jackson to Mr. Mann that he succumbed to the intense emotions he was feeling. "This was an escalation, a snowball, a series of events that spun further and further out of control," Mr. Willemin said.
Harding and Ms. Jackson had lived together for two years and had a 3-month-old daughter. They had separated two weeks before the shooting.
On the night of the shooting, Harding had been drinking, became depressed, and went to Ms. Jackson's father's house, Mr. Willemin said. When he found Ms. Jackson wasn't there, he went to the Guilford Gardens apartment complex in the 7200 block of Oakland Mills Road.
In the parking lot Harding first saw Ms. Jackson, then Mr. Mann. The shooting was "an instant snap decision," Mr. Willemin said.
Within seconds of shooting Mr. Mann, Harding turned to Ms. Jackson and shot her in the chest. "At that point he was so out of control and so whipped up into an emotional state of passion," Mr. Willemin said.
After the shootings, Harding carried Ms. Jackson's bleeding body to her mother's apartment and told her to call an ambulance.