Former Maryland state Trooper James M. Harding Jr. was convicted last night in Howard County Circuit Court of murdering his stepson, whom he had raised from the age of 6.
Harding, 40, was cleared of first-degree murder, but the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder after deliberating about six hours.
The difference between the charges means that jurors decided Harding intended to kill 23-year-old Marine Cpl. Andre Boone on March 21 but that the shooting was not premeditated. The second-degree murder charge carries a maximum 30-year sentence.
Harding is to be sentenced Feb. 19.
Anthony Covington, Harding's attorney, said he plans to appeal.
"Justice was not done," Covington said. "There was no way there was intent to kill on his part. At the very most it was manslaughter."
Jurors had to decide whether what happened that day in the Goodin Circle home was murder or self-defense.
Police charged Harding with murdering his stepson after an apparent fight.
The jury's verdict seemed to reject parts of the prosecution and defense arguments. The defense maintained that Harding believed his life was in danger and that he shot Boone to protect himself, which would be self-defense. Prosecutors alleged that Harding's action was premeditated, which would be first-degree murder.
After eight days of testimony, prosecutors introduced a new theory yesterday. They alleged that Harding, to support his self-defense case, had staged the crime scene to make it seem as if Boone and he had struggled. A Howard County police detective testified that he thought a fight had taken place.
"After that shot, there was only one person capable of moving around, and that was James Harding," Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerney said.
Harding's attorney strongly disputed the state's allegation that Harding staged the crime scene, saying he could have done a much better job.
"If somebody is going to the great lengths the state says he did to absolve himself don't you think he would have gotten the physical evidence right?" Covington asked.
Harding maintained that Boone came to his house March 21 looking for trouble.
The defense presented statements from two of Boone's friends who said he had told them he was going to his stepfather's house to beat him up.
Pub Date: 12/18/97