INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA21) – On the same day Indiana Supreme Court justices revisited a 19-year-old Fort Wayne murder case, they made a decision on the sentence.
On Thursday, the high court heard oral arguments at the Indiana Statehouse, considering whether years should be trimmed off Damian Harris’ sentence in the high-profile slaying of a popular southside food market owner.
Damian Harris, who was 15 at the time, pulled the trigger, killing 69-year old Jim Didier in the Pettit Avenue Didier Meats store he ran for decades.
“The Court has determined that it should not assume jurisdiction over this appeal and that the Court of Appeals opinion reported as Harris v. State, 131 N.E.3d 195 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), should be reinstated as Court of Appeals precedent,” an order filed Thursday said.
That means Harris will have to serve his remaining of his 65-year sentence.
“You’ve got just strong testimony from the shop owner’s daughters, one after another, just powerful testimony of the harm that was caused,” said Loretta Rush, the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.
February 21, 2000, Harris came in the store with a loaded gun to rob the place, but he didn’t actually get any money.
He got into a struggle with Didier and shot him twice before taking off.
He was convicted of felony murder in 2003 and got the maximum of 65 years.
Harris on appeal was granted re-sentencing, but got the same punishment the second time.
He was not successful in getting time reduced under a separate appeals court review.
Attorneys for the Indiana Public Defenders Office still maintain his previous lawyers failed to present evidence that, among other things, Harris suffered through an abusive childhood, and they claim that distorted his judgment the day of the murder, justifying a lesser sentence.
“Damian is not arguing that his adolescent brain development and the trauma he experienced caused him to commit this offense. This is mitigation and it’s compelling mitigation,” said Kristen Phair, a lawyer with the Indiana Public Defenders Office.
The state holds this was a planned, calculated crime, not the work of someone too young to know right from wrong.
“He did not just shoot Mr. Didier, he shot him twice, in the front, in the back. He wore multiple layers of clothing and as he was leaving the store, he shed a layer of clothing which is how they later found DNA linking him to this crime,” deputy attorney general Justin Roebel told the justices in the hearing.
A lot of time has passed for the Didier family.
Jim Didier’s daughter, Angela Karapantos, is adamant that the sentence should not be reduced.
“I hope they take our family’s feelings under consideration and, you know what, I hope someday we get an apology from him and we can feel very differently,” Karapantos said.