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Harrison To Be Sentenced As Adult In Double Homicide

Ryan Denham
Christopher Harrison, convicted of second-degree murder in June, will be sentenced as an adult on Nov. 5.

Christopher Harrison will be sentenced as an adult in the April 2018 murder of two Bloomington men, a judge has ruled.

Harrison was 17 when he was charged with firing the semi-automatic weapon that killed Joseph Gardner, 20, and Reggie Hart Jr., 19, in the entryway of a Normal apartment complex. Harrison turned 20 before a jury convicted him in June of second-degree murder.

Deliberations lasted just three hours before the jury returned a guilty verdict on lesser charges of second-degree murder. Harrison’s case was returned to juvenile court after the trial based on state law that excludes second-degree murder from an automatic transfer to adult court.

In a motion filed by the McLean County State’s Attorney’s office, prosecutor Jeff Horve sought a return of the case to adult court. Judge Casey Costigan granted the state’s motion after a Sept. 10 hearing.

Harrison faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 5.

Defense lawyer Kevin Sanborn argued the verdict shows the jury accepted at least one of the defense contentions that Harrison believed he had a right to protect himself from an armed attack, or he fired the assault-style rifle after he was provoked by the threat of harm.    

Gardner and Hart were looking to settle a “drug debt” when they went to Harrison’s apartment, an acquaintance of Gardner told police during the trial. Police found weapons, including the AR-15 used in the killings, and marijuana, in Harrison’s apartment.

Before his trial, Harrison pleaded guilty to seven charges, including possession of a stolen firearm and ammunition, and marijuana charges.

Harrison will be eligible for day-for-day credit on his prison term. He also will receive credit for the time served in jail before the sentencing.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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