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Ex-death row inmate convicted on lesser charges

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Posted: Sep 25, 2010 11:44 AM
Source: Associated Press

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Topics: death row, inmate, conviction, charge

A man who spent six years on Louisiana's death row for killing a drug-dealing rival and his girlfriend has been convicted of lesser charges.

A jury found Edwin Irving Harris guilty of manslaughter and negligent homicide in the deaths of Tamyra Frazier and Mister Gordon, both 19 and from Harvey. They were each shot in the back as they strolled down a sidewalk in Marrero on Oct. 14, 1994.

Harris, 34, will receive credit for the 16 years he has served when sentenced. Manslaughter carries up to 40 years in prison, while negligent homicide carries up to five years.

Defense attorney Martin Regan told The Times-Picayune that Harris could be eligible for parole.

Harris was convicted in December 1995 of two counts of first-degree murder. His first trial attorney, Joe Raspanti, argued in an appeal that the trial judge erred in allowing prosecutors to cut a black man during jury selection.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a new trial in 2002. The Jefferson Parish district attorney's office later reduced the charges to second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

A jury deliberated about two hours Thursday before convicting Harris of the lesser charges. Jurors heard nothing about Harris' previous convictions and death sentence, or that he is awaiting trial on other felony charges.

Harris was charged in 2007 with introducing contraband and public bribery in an alleged scheme with a girlfriend to bribe a jail guard in order to smuggle cell phones and narcotics into the facility.

Harris claimed he fired at Gordon in self-defense after Gordon threatened him and reached for a gun. He said Frazier was shot accidentally.

State witnesses testified that the shooting happened suddenly and without provocation.

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