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Stanford Harvey found guilty of aggravated assault

By LESLIE WILBER
Oct. 1, 2009 at 5:01 a.m.
Updated Oct. 2, 2009 at 5:02 a.m.

Stanford Harvey

WHAT'S NEXT

Judge Robert Cheshire will decide Stanford Harvey's punishment. Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison. But because Harvey has previous convictions, District Attorney Steve Tyler can ask Cheshire to consider the range of punishment for a first-degree felony - which includes life in prison.

The sentencing hearing begins at 9 a.m., Friday, Oct. 9, in Cheshire's courtroom.

Family members of a man found guilty of aggravated assault on Thursday were outraged after the verdict was read.

"There's no evidence," said Shawn Shelton. The 32-year-old woman is Stanford Harvey's cousin.

A jury found Harvey guilty of assault in the 2006 incident that caused 42-year-old Melba Lott's death. Harvey, 45, had been charged with capital murder, but murder and aggravated assault were lesser charges the jury could consider.

Lott's body was decomposing when it was found in her apartment in March 2006. Blood spattered the walls around the bedroom where she was found. Though her death was originally attributed to cocaine toxicity, homicidal violence was added as a cause in a 2008 addendum to the autopsy report.

Lott's boyfriend, Bruce Hughes, 41, was convicted in February of capital murder in Lott's death. Hughes and Lott's blood were both found in the Navidad Street apartment. Amanda Jo Walters, 21, has also been charged with capital murder in the death. Walters said during Hughes' trial that she listened as the two men beat Lott to death during an attempted robbery.

Harvey's trial unfolded with the procedural tensions and oddities of a television drama, but with a halting, real-life timeline that included roughly nine hours of deliberation.

Walters - the only witness who claimed to have seen Harvey at the scene - refused to testify.

Hughes testified, but said he alone killed Lott, as the couple fought over their fast-smoking Valentines Day crack supply.

Three other women - all with histories of crime and drug use - said they heard Harvey talk about Lott's death.

During the first day of deliberations, the jury asked to hear excerpts from Clemencia Archangel and Stephanie Holt's testimonies.

Archangel said Harvey told her he instructed Hughes to kill Lott.

Holt said a conversation with Harvey made her think he saw Lott's death, although he did not tell Holt who killed her.

After listening to the readings, the jury was still split 7-5 when it retired Wednesday night.

They came back with the guilty verdict Thursday morning, but one juror stumbled over the answer when the panel was polled individually. She said the verdict was not hers, but the jury's, then said she did not understand the question.

Though she eventually said she had voted Harvey guilty of aggravated assault, the jury was sent back for more deliberations to clarify.

A few minutes later, they came back with the same verdict and the jurors were polled smoothly.

"I think the case didn't go well," Cynthia Davis, Harvey's sister, said. "I think it was the raw deal."

Harvey's niece, 29-year-old Krishandra Woods of Edna, suspects Tyler was eager to prosecute her uncle because he has a criminal record. Harvey was served a warrant on Wednesday charging him with manufacturing or delivering less than 1 gram of a controlled substance.

"Tyler is out to get Stanford Harvey," she said.

But the prosecution's witnesses were also deeply involved in drugs, Woods said.

With no blood, fingerprints or eye witnesses linking Harvey to the scene, Woods can't understand why he was convicted.

"Why isn't there his blood anywhere?" Woods said. "Something of Stanford's would have been in Melba's apartment."

Members of the families know each other - like each other, even - which made the trial all the more difficult, Davis said.

Milton Lott, Melba Lott's brother, sat quietly through each day of Hughes and Harvey's trials.

After Hughes' trial, Lott said he was pleased. Thursday he wasn't as sure of his feelings.

"It's hard to say," Lott said. "I don't know if I'm pleased or displeased."

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