Saturday, April 24, 2010

Silver Spring man who stabbed wife to death in front of child sentenced to life without parole

A Montgomery County, MD man was sentenced to life without parole for stabbing his wife to death while their child was home. Lamour A. Harrison, 37, was stabbed to death by her own husband, 49 year old Claude Harrison, in their Silver Spring apartment.  He went from room to room, stabbing her with a 12-inch knife four times after he broke into the bedroom in which she barricaded herself with - their 18 year old daughter Shanoy's.

After arguing in the kitchen with his wife, Claude Harrison followed her to a bedroom, where she slammed the door between them, according to police. He then forced his way into the bedroom, according to the documents. Detectives think Lamour Harrison "attempted to barricade herself" inside their daughter's bedroom while Claude Harrison had the knife in his back pocket, according to Feeney. After forcing his way into the room, he stabbed her four times, [a law enforcement officer] said.

After the stabbing, he follows the victim into the kitchen, along with their daughter, and prosecutor Peter Feeney describes the last moments of the 37 year old mother's life during closing arguments.

"This is a horribly intimate picture. This is horrific. Dad and mom, Shanoy watching. He takes the knife, and if there's any question at all in your mind about premeditation, after the kitchen incident there ought not to be. He's talking to her. He's talking to his wife. ... And she says to him, 'Please, please.' His response – I mean she's begging, she's begging, begging – his response: 'Please what?'" Shanoy falls over her mother as she lay dying from the stab wounds which literally pierced her heart.

Brian D. Shefferman, Harrison's defense attorney argued that his client did not mean to kill his wife, saying that "Raw emotion got the better of Claude Harrison on August 10th. He snapped. He did an awful, awful thing...This clearly was not Claude Harrison’s normal way of dealing with stress and problems, and marital strife...What he did was completely wrong ... We know that," Shefferman said. "But this was not a premeditated and deliberate act. It was the result of raw emotion and frustration. Once he got control of that knife, he clearly lost control."

To establish premeditation, though, prosecutors don't have to show the defendant engaged in weeks or even minutes of planning. They can argue that the amount of time someone takes to weigh whether to kill or not need only be a matter of seconds. And in cases like Harrison's, when someone is accused of stabbing or shooting repeatedly, prosecutors will argue that the second, third or fourth attacks are themselves a matter of premeditation because the defendant had a chance to stop but didn't.

Feeney said that previous talk of hurting his wife and the choice of a 12 inch knife when smaller knives were available underscored Harrison's intent to kill. "He's looking for a knife that’s going to get the job done. There’s a butter knife. I don't want that. There's a regular steak-knife. I don't want that. There's a knife that you would use to chop an onion. That's not big enough. I want this. I want this. This is going to get the job done. He hunts her down, ladies and gentlemen," he says to the court, particularly the jury.

Jurors, persuaded by that argument, convicted Harrison of 1st degree murder February 25. Almost two months later, on April 22, Harrison was sentenced to life without parole. "This is yet another domestic-violence murder in front of a child. It's deeply troubling," said Montgomery County's chief prosecutor John McCarthy. Because Harrison was sentenced to life, the governor must sign off on any parole request, meaning he should die behind bars.

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