Harrigan criminal homicide trial goes to jury

On final day of testimony, defendant in Blue Ridge Summit slaying takes stand in his own defense

February 10, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Harrigan

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Closing arguments have wrapped up in the Franklin County, Pa., trial of Michael Harrigan, who is charged with shooting his neighbor in the early morning hours of May 27, 2010.

Harrigan, 30, was charged with criminal homicide after police found Steven Wetzel lying dead in the street near Harrigan’s home on Blue Ridge Avenue near Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

Harrigan' attorneys argued it was self-defense.

The jury received the case around noon Thursday.

Harrigan took the stand in Franklin County (Pa.) Court on Wednesday to give his version of what happened the night his neighbor was fatally shot last May.

Defense attorneys James Reed and Scott Rolle argue that Harrigan acted in self-defense during the second of two disputes with Wetzel between 10:30 p.m. May 26 and 1:30 a.m. May 27.

Wetzel approached Harrigan's home in both instances.

"I knew everything I love is in our home, and I felt his complete lack of control, fear, how enraged he was, drunk ... that he would invade our home and (do) I don't know what from there," Harrigan testified.

The prosecution questioned Harrigan about whether he saw Wetzel with a weapon.

Assistant District Attorney Jeremiah Zook asked Harrigan about his training in the U.S. Marines, as well as a fence and wall separating the two men.

Zook ended his questioning by focusing on the period in which Harrigan sat outside with a shotgun and pistol.

"Isn't it true you didn't check the locks or lock the basement door because you knew there wouldn't be a threat when you came back in?" Zook asked.

"No," Harrigan said.

Zook then asked if Harrigan intended to kill Wetzel.

"No," he said.

Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases Wednesday.

Also testifying Wednesday were one of Harrigan's comrades in Iraq and his wife, Marta.

Reed asked Marta Harrigan what she thought when she heard the gunshot while talking to a 911 dispatcher.

"I immediately thought Steve shot Mike because of all the threats," she said. Marta Harrigan also recounted her husband's comment when he entered the house after the shooting and asked her to place the handgun in a dresser.

"He told me, 'I have to do this.' That's all," Marta Harrigan said.

In addressing the same comment, Michael Harrigan said he was referring to his expectation police would soon take him into custody.

In Pennsylvania, criminal homicide is an umbrella charge. Under it, the jury could choose to find Harrigan guilty of several offenses, the most serious of which is first-degree murder.

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