Sentencing phase continues in Harrison capital murder retrial - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Sentencing phase continues in Harrison capital murder retrial

RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) -

James Harrison Jr. was back in court on Wednesday morning, Aug. 6, for the sentencing phase of the retrial.

On Aug. 5, 2014 Harrison was charged once again with Capital Murder and First Degree Robbery. Now, the State and the Defense are meeting in the Russell County Courtroom to find an appropriate punishment.

The two possible outcomes are life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.

Harrison already escaped a death penalty back in 2001. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but was granted a retrial based on juror misconduct.

Harrison brutally murdered and slashed the throat of Fred Day Jr., a disabled Phenix City man, in Jan. 13, 1998. During the court session, Harrison was found guilty of murdering Day, and robbing him of his CD's and other items in order to pawn and purchase cocaine and other drugs.

Ken Davis with the State asked the Jury to uphold Harrison's death penalty sentence. Davis explained That the State is not in the business of revenge, but entitled to justice in any given case. He reminded the jury the murder took place during the course of a robbery and this is a qualifying crime in Alabama for death penalty.

On the other hand, Jeremy Armstrong with the Defense called Joanne Terrell, a University of Alabama professor and social worker, to the witness stand. Although Terrell cannot diagnose anyone with mental illness, she provided 35 death penalty mitigation cases across the state of Alabama.

She explained the risk factors of what might have led Harrison to become the man he is today.

Terrell interviewed Harrison and his siblings in 2005, and again in 2014. She says Harrison and his brother and sisters moved from foster home to foster home while growing up. His three sisters were sexually abused by their step father, and all the children were verbally and physically abused by their step father and  their biological parents.  

Terrell explained Harrison grew up in a threatening and dangerous environment. She explained by the time Harrison was in 10th grade, he had already gone to 20 different schools, because he had to move often.

Terrell said Harrison and his siblings didn't have the support they needed from their parents, they didn't have mentors or friends.   

Terrell also said Harrison had no prior records of violence and crime before the murder. He was charged for receiving stolen property when Harrison worked in Louisiana for stealing about eight cans of vegetables.

However, Ken Davis explained during his cross examination that one of Harrison's ex-wives filed a report against Harrison for holding a knife to her throat and threatening her life.

Harrison was married three times, and had four kids he has not seen or heard from in years.

Terrell told Davis she did not know about this fact, but it does not surprise her since victims of domestic violence often end up showing violent behavior to their family members.

Harrison's two sisters and his brother were called to the stand to share their testimonies of their traumatizing childhood as well. The siblings recalled running away from home to avoid sexual and physical abuse. They spoke about some scary incidents they faced when they were placed in different foster homes.

Armstrong told the jury the defense is not trying to excuse Harrison of his murder. However, he wants to save the down trodden and the outcast. Armstrong told the jury Harrison has value, and people should not play God.

Davis then reminded the jury that Fred Day Jr. had nothing to do with causing his death. Davis explained Harrison is charged with capital murder for something he deliberately did, and the death penalty would help bring justice for Day and his family.

The jury could not decide on Harrison's sentence on Wednesday evening, and requested to be back in session Thursday morning, Aug. 7, to decide on Harrison's appropriate punishment.

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