Columbia murderer draws life -- again

February 19, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Columbia man has been sentenced to life in prison for the second time for the June 1989 murder of his estranged girlfriend.

Walter Thomas Harding, originally sentenced in August 1991, told Howard Circuit Judge James Dudley during a hearing yesterday that he believes the judge "deliberately misinstructed" the jury that convicted him.

"I really don't feel I can get justice in this court," Harding said.

Harding told Judge Dudley that he should have given the jury instructions for qualifying the killing as a crime of passion and self defense. Either would have provided grounds for a manslaughter conviction, instead of the first-degree murder convictions Harding received.

Judge Dudley, however, didn't buy Harding's arguments. He again sentenced the defendant to life in prison without parole, but struck 20 years from a sentence for a weapons charge.

Harding, 30, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in July 1991 for the shooting deaths of Carmini Jackson and her lover, Andre Mann. The defendant shot the couple in front of 12 people in a Columbia parking lot.

Defense attorneys argued at Harding's trial that the defendant was a desperate man at the time of the killings, so distraught at the thought of losing Ms. Jackson and their 3-month-old daughter that he succumbed to his emotions.

Judge Dudley originally sentenced Harding to life in prison without parole for both murder convictions, plus 40 years for two weapons charges.

Harding appealed to the state Court of Special Appeals, which overturned the conviction for the Mann murder and ordered a new trial in Circuit Court. The court ruled that the defense produced enough evidence to permit the jury to determine if Harding acted in self defense.

Meanwhile, the appellate court affirmed the conviction for the Jackson murder but ordered the defendant to be resentenced.

A trial date for the pending murder charge has not been scheduled.

Louis Willemin, a public defender representing Harding, asked Judge Dudley yesterday to allow his client to be eligible for parole.

"I don't think we can say Walter Harding is devoid of those characteristics [needed] . . . to resume some aspect of life in the community," Mr. Willemin said.

But Assistant State's Attorney Bernard Taylor argued for the maximum penalty.

"He has no remorse for murdering two people," Mr. Taylor said. "I think he's beyond redemption."

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