Defendant says he remembers little of Arlington wrecks, shooting

05/02/2014 8:42 PM

05/02/2014 11:12 PM

Defendant Thomas Harper testified Friday that he was drifting in and out of consciousness after a wreck in 2011 when he fatally shot a teen-ager trying to pull Harper’s daughter from the car.

“I was going in and out, and I’m still not aware of everything that was going on in that particular moment,” Harper testified. “I just know I was trying to protect my daughter from being removed from my car.

“No one was listening to my simple ‘No’s.’ ”

He denied having smoked marijuana that day, contrary to evidence presented during his trial this week.

“I don’t smoke marijuana around my kids,” Harper testified. “The last time I smoked marijuana was a month” earlier.

Harper, 30, is on trial on a murder charge in the shooting death of Clarence Robinson, 18, on Dec. 14, 2011. The maximum sentence is life in prison.

Harper has also been indicted on a manslaughter charge in the death of Najee Nasir, a Marine veteran who was killed when Harper’s Tahoe hit Nasir’s pickup on North Collins Street in Arlington moments before Robinson was shot. That case is pending.

‘Not in control’

Harper testified that he was not fully aware of what he had done until police and firefighters pried him from his wrecked Tahoe and he saw blood coming out of Robinson’s nose.

Harper said that he was tired because he had not been able to sleep the night before. He went to a store and purchased water, lottery tickets and two energy drinks.

On the way back to his apartment, he blacked out for just a split-second, Harper said.

“When my eyes came open, I was in the center of the intersection, and I was hit again on the driver’s side,” Harper said. “My head hit the door panel.”

Harper’s attorney, Leon Haley, asked if Harper remembered hitting the gray Dodge Dakota that Nasir was driving. Harper said no.

Harper said he felt some blows to his Tahoe, one of which was when the air bags deployed. When everything stopped, Harper said, he was lying on the floorboard on top of broken glass. And someone was trying to remove his daughter from his ruined vehicle.

“Everything was happening so fast,” Harper said. “I was trying to figure out what was going on. My foot was still on the gas pedal, and it just started taking off. I did not know what happened. I’m thinking my truck malfunctioned and just started blasting off.”

“I was not in control,” Harper said. “The vehicle was moving.”

Jack Strickland, who is prosecuting the case with Amy Collum, said that when Harper has been asked about his conduct, in more than 30 instances, he has said he cannot remember or his memory was foggy or he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

‘He was high’

Earlier Friday, witness Heather Fennoy told of watching Robinson walk up to the wrecked Tahoe and cradle the 2-year-old daughter in his arms. Robinson was not a threat, and like others, was concerned because he heard Harper’s children crying, Fennoy said.

Harper appeared to be searching for something in the Tahoe, Fennoy said. Other people were focused on Harper’s children and getting them away from his truck, Fennoy said.

“He was high,” Fennoy said. “To be honest, he was on something.”

Also testifying Friday was Sharon Robinson, the dead teen’s mother. She said they were Louisiana transplants who moved to North Texas after Hurricane Katrina.

She testified that she was not surprised that Clarence Robinson ran from his place of work to try to help the people in the collisions. Her son became a crossing guard when he was 8 so he could help other schoolchildren cross the street, Sharon Robinson testified.

“That was my only son that I prayed for and that I was blessed with and I will never have another,” Sharon Robinson said.

“The day he died was the saddest day of my life. My life to this point and for a long time to be will never be the same.”

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