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State Supreme Court hears arguments in Damian Harris murder case; should his sentence be cut?

INDIANAPOLIS (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – The family of Jim Didier has endured many anxious moments since February 2000, when the owner of Didier Meats was shot and killed in the store he ran for more than four decades.

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 the popular southside food market owner.

The highest court in the state of Indiana is focusing some attention on that fatal shooting from nearly 20 years ago.

Damian Harris, who was 15 at the time, pulled the trigger, killing 69-year old Jim Didier in the Pettit Avenue store.

“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, at Thursday’s hearing.

February 21, 2000, Harris came in the store with a loaded gun to rob the business, 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 tough childhood and his young age worked in concert to distort 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.

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.

It could take anywhere from a few weeks to six months or more for the Supreme Court justices to decide what they’re going to do with the case.


Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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