Web Producer: Rachel Chambliss
Monday Update: Reaction to Bail Hearing
It was a big blow to Julie Rea Harper's family Monday. They were hit hard financially with a high bond, and hit hard emotionally with the news that the same prosecutors would be trying her case again.
Julie Rea Harper supporters are back in court Monday as her fight for freedom takes another blow.
You may remember that the prosecutors were the reason why the last conviction was vacated, but this time around, the Illinois law has changed. Now it allows the state's attorney's office to prosecute murder trials in Illinois.
Harper's dad responded, "This is very difficult for us."
Her mom added, "She is very firm in her conviction that she did not kill Joel."
There is continued support from Julie Rea Harper's friends and family, holding on to hope after taking a financial blow, as bond was set at two-million dollars or 200-thousand dollars cash Monday.
This all after Rea Harper's conviction was vacated last week followed by Lawrence County's re-arrest.
On Friday the defense will motion to lower the bond from two-million dollars, but after having sold their house, her family doesn't know where any money is going to come from.
Her mom told Newswatch, "I have about a thousand dollars in the bank and about 950-thousand dollars in bills."
Her father commented, "Julie is innocent, she needs to be free, this is wrong in anybody's estimation."
Her husband commented, "We keep thinking the insanity will end at some point, but it's a real dog fight and the last man standing is going to come out."
Her dad responded, "We hope that somebody somewhere will be fair, obviously those that we have dealt with to this point have not."
Friday Update: Parent's Response
Julie Rea Harper is back in jail and will soon be back in a courtroom.
Julie Rea Harper was released from prison Thursday after her murder conviction was overturned on a technicality. Before she even got out of prison though, the State's Attorney arrested her again for the murder of her ten-year-old son, Joel.
Harper's parents, Jim and Jane Rea spent nearly four hours with Julie in the Dwight Prison Thursday. They say Julie was making plans to walk out the gate and be with her family, but while she was filling paperwork out Thursday morning she learned she would be going back to jail. Despite that, Rea's parents say their daughter has remained in good spirits and is ready to fight again for freedom.
Jim Rea, Julie's father refers to the situation as a roller coaster, "Emotionally just up and down. Well maybe she'll be free - no, maybe she'll have to stay here." Julie Rea Harper and her family say Thursday was a microcosm of the last seven years.
Jane Rea's mother says, "It was an extraordinary misunderstanding or lack of communication by the state."
Getting pass the confusion of the release, Jim and Jane Rea say their visit to Dwight was no different than those in the past. There was little talk about the facts of that October night, and no talk about innocence. Like a roller coaster, family and friends say Julie brought her ten visitors back to the top by laughter through a game.
Armed with a team of Northwestern University lawyers, Rea told her parents before leaving she was afraid of another trial, but was ready to bring the roller coaster ride to an end.
WFIE tried to speak with State's Attorney Todd Rietz Friday to respond to the Rea family's claim of injustice, but was told he was out of town. Someone with Rietz's office did say though the prosecutor will not do interviews before the trial, because he knows how easily any words he says could be picked apart.
Harper Released Thursday then Sent Back to Jail
When you hear the words"overturned conviction" you think Julie Rea Harper is a free woman, but the case is much more complicated because that ruling came from a technical error, not an error in the evidence.
Her murder conviction was overturned two weeks ago. Thursday, family and friends gathered in Illinois for Harper's release from prison.
Harper's been held at Dwight Correctional Facility in Dwight, Illinois, about five hours away from Evansville.
Family members didn't get the reunion they had planned, as Harper was met by authorities from Lawrence County, IL, there to take her directly to a county jail.
Defense attorney Don Vowels of Evansville explained, "The error that the Illinois prosecutors made should have never been made, and it would seem to be a pretty simple solution in the beginning."
A technical error that Vowels says was a blatant mistake.
"At the time, Illinois statutes didn't allow the State Attorney General to prosecute murder cases, which would seem to be a no brainer from the State Attorney General's point of view, knowing what they can do and can't do."
It's only a dismissal of the conviction, leaving Julie Rea still facing the evidence and charges from the first trial in 2000, when she was convicted of murdering her son in her own home.
Vowels explained, "The court didn't dismiss the charges, the court found there was sufficient evidence for the court to convict her of the crime. The fact that she has pending charges, they bring her back into court and take her back into custody."
Attorneys that Newswatch spoke with Thursday, said one of the big issues facing a possible retrial is the admission of new evidence, in particular the admission of Tommy Lynn Sells, to the murder.
Vowels said, "There was a particular person who wrote a book and confessed to the murder and of course that will be the big fight about the admissibility of that person's admission. You run into what they refer to as a daisy chain of evidence where one person may make an admission that they actually did it."
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