Julie Rea Harper — the Illinois mom convicted
and later acquitted of murdering her 10-year-old son — will be the
focus of a segment on the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 scheduled to air on Friday, March 9. The show
includes Harper’s first (and thus far only) media interview since her
Harper had been charged with stabbing her son, Joel
Kirkpatrick, to death in 1997, as he slept in her Lawrenceville home. Three
years later she was indicted for the crime, and in 2002 she was convicted
and sentenced to 65 years in prison. Released in 2004 on a technicality
— that state appellate prosecutor Ed Parkinson had overreached his
authority to accomplish Harper’s indictment — she stood trial
on the same crime a second time last summer in Clinton County.
All along, Harper insisted that she was innocent. She
claimed to have confronted a masked intruder in Joel’s bedroom and
struggled briefly with the man as he exited the house. Her account was
bolstered by the 2002 confession of Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer on
Texas’ death row.Her case was also aided by researchers from the
University of Illinois at Springfield’s Downstate Innocence Project.
Last summer, a Clinton County jury believed Harper
and found her not guilty of the crime [see Dusty Rhodes, “The
end,” Aug. 10].
It’s not surprising that Harper — a
notoriously shy and still-grieving mom uninterested in 15 minutes of fame
— agreed to speak with 20/20. The show first featured her case in
2002, and that broadcast eventually led to Sells’ confession.
Prosecutors said they won’t charge Sells; Parkinson still believes
Harper is guilty.
Contact Dusty Rhodes at