Harding Sentenced To Life Without Parole For 2 Killings

'I Was Trying To Maintain My Family,' He Says

August 25, 1991|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

Before Judge James B. Dudley sentenced him to life without parole last week for the murders of his girlfriend and her lover, Walter Thomas Harding tried to explain what drove him to the ultimate act of violence.

"I'd like you to know it was a crime of the heart," said Harding, 29.

"I was trying to maintain my family the best way I knew how. I pretty much lost control."

Dudley, the county circuit judge who presided over Harding's two-week trial earlier this month, said he found the evidence in the case "overwhelming" and denied a defense motion for a new trial before imposing the sentence.

"Because of the magnitude of the crimes, the ultimate sanctions in accordance with the jury's sentence would be appropriate," Dudley said.

A jury convicted Harding of two counts of first-degree murder in the June 1989 shooting deaths of Carmini S. Jackson, 21, and Andre Mann, 21.

The jury spared him from the death penalty and sentenced him to a term of life without parole.

Harding's public defender, Louis P. Willemin, saidhe plans to appeal the sentence.

On Thursday, Willemin requested a new trial, arguing that the jury was not allowed to consider an imperfect self-defense or a heat-of-passion defense during its deliberations.

An imperfect self-defense exists when a person is convinced he harmed someone out of self-defense, although a reasonable person would not share that belief, Willemin said.

If the jury found that these conditions had applied, the result would have been a manslaughter conviction, Willemin said.

Harding's identity as the killer wasnot in question during the trial.

The defense acknowledged that Harding shot Jackson and Mann in front of 12 people in the parking lotof a Columbia apartment complex.

Assistant State's Attorney Gary Weissner presented Harding as a jealous, possessive man who planned the shootings.

According to Willemin, Harding was a desperate man at the time of the killings, so distraught at the thought of losing Jackson and their 3-month-old daughter that he succumbed to his overwhelming emotions.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, Harding's family pleaded with the jury to spare his life. They described him as an introverted, lonely boy from an alcoholic, abusive household who became a loving father to his child.

Harding told the jury that his world fell apart when Jackson left him, and he asked them to consider his daughter in deciding his fate.

"She has already lost her mother," Harding said.

"I'm asking this jury not to take away her father."

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