Harmon seeks new trial in 1989 slaying

Danny Harmon Jr. has asked state Judge Glennon Everett for a new trial after Harmon was convicted April 30 of second-degree murder in a 1989 slaying.

In a six-page motion filed late Friday, Alfred Boustany II, Harmon’s lead attorney, raised several issues that occurred during the five-day trial that he says should warrant a new trial.

Boustany said prosecutors never put on evidence that directly linked Harmon to Christine Marie Wood’s killing.

Prosecutors told the nine-woman, three-man jury that “someone killed the victim by shooting her three times in the head,” the motion states. “But no evidence proves the defendant shot her.”

Wood was found dead and her body burned July 25, 1989. Prosecutors said Wood had been raped, her throat sliced and three bullets fired into her head. Assistant District Attorney Roger Hamilton Jr. told jurors that Harmon killed Wood to keep her quiet about being raped.

Boustany said in the new trial request that prosecutors’ claims during the trial fell short of proof.

“The state claims all of that is proven simply because the defendant’s DNA was found in semen from samples taken from the alleged victim’s body,” Boustany stated. “Although this argument seems plausible, the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution fails to prove those facts beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hamilton said Monday that the Lafayette Parish District Attorney’s Office would file its opposition to a new trial within a week.

Boustany said Monday he could not comment on the motion, or whether the points raised in the filing would be brought up again in an appeal court.

During the trial, which ended late Thursday in a 10-2 vote to convict Harmon of second-degree murder, forensic scientist Carolyn Booker with the Acadian Crime Lab testified that DNA found in Wood’s body belonged to Harmon.

At the trial and in the motion, Boustany said there were other men who should have been tested for DNA identification, including felon Michael Dickerson, who is now serving a sentence for rape and testified at the trial.

Boustany also questioned “repeated references” made during the trial to CODIS, short for Combined DNA Index System, a national database of DNA that alerts authorities when a sample matches one of the convicted felons listed in the system.

CODIS identified Harmon in 2006 when Wood’s slaying was pulled from the cold case files and years-old evidence was tested.

Before the trial began, Everett ruled that the jury should not be informed of Harmon’s criminal history, including 1994 convictions in Tennessee for rape and kidnapping.

During the trial Boustany often objected to CODIS being mentioned in front of jurors. He objected again in the motion.

“The Combined DNA Index System allows comparison of forensic DNA evidence from violent crime investigations,” Boustany wrote. “… The reference to CODIS served only to repeatedly tell the jury that the defendant’s DNA profile had been entered onto a government database due to his criminal history.

“This evidence was clearly inadmissible and substantially prejudiced the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” Boustany wrote.

Sentencing for Harmon has been set for May 30.

The penalty for second-degree murder is life in prison without parole.