While faulting the "overzealous advocacy" and some bad judgment by the prosecution, the Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the murder conviction of Larry Ross Harmon.
Harmon was found guilty of killing Douglas L. Greer, 27, and wounding Raymond O. Thomas, 22, as they were walking away from his Frampton Heights cabin on May 22, 1995.Thomas told investigators that he and Greer had gone to Harmon's cabin for help after their truck got stuck in a muddy road. After ordering them off his property, Harmon followed them in his truck and shot them without provocation, according to Thomas.
But Harmon said he fired his .45-caliber pistol in self-defense after the two men continued to approach him despite his warnings to stop. The only year-round resident of the sparsely populated mountain retreat east of Fillmore, Harmon said he was questioning the men because of their suspicious behavior.
Harmon appealed his conviction on grounds of alleged trial error and prosecutorial misconduct. He argued that Millard County prosecutor Dexter Anderson improperly elicited testimony about his decision to remain silent and speak to an attorney during a police interrogation.
Also, the appeal said Anderson improperly questioned a deputy about Harmon's credibility and impugned the integrity of defense attorney Edward K. Brass. Harmon said 4th District Judge Boyd L. Park should have granted him a new trial instead of trying to resolve the errors through "curative" instructions to the jury.
Though such instructions are not a "cure all," there is nothing in the record to indicate the jury was unable to follow Park's admonition to disregard the inadmissible evidence, the Supreme Court concluded.
Writing for the court, Justice Leonard Russon said, "This case demonstrates several instances of overzealous advocacy as well as bad judgment on the part of the prosecution. However, we are not persuaded that the errors were substantial or prejudicial to the extent that Harmon was denied a fair trial."
As for the contention that Anderson tried to undermine Brass' credibility, Russon said there was "no evidence to support such a claim."
"We are not persuaded that this small-town jury was biased, either against Harmon or in favor of its local prosecutor," the court ruled.
Harmon, 60, is serving a prison sentence of five years to life.