Parole possible for man who killed marina owner
TACOMA, Wash. -- A convicted killer with a life sentence had his sentence changed Friday, and it's all because Michael Harris was a teenager when he committed the crime.
Harris came into court a 43-year-old man. He told the judge he's a far better person than the 15-year-old murderer who took the life of a marina owner.
"It's not easy. Of course a long time has passed. I'm not the same person. I'm not that reckless kid," Harris said.
In 1987 at the Steilacoom marina, Harris and accomplice Barry Massey robbed and killed owner Paul Wang. They took fishing poles and some candy.
"I hope that one day they can begin to heal and they could find it in their heart to somehow forgive me," Harris said in court.
But Wang's wife Shirley is not forgiving. She sent a statement to the court that was read aloud.
"My late husband Paul would have been 69 years old this year and we would be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. Instead, he is in a grave and I am alone," she said.
She asked that Harris be kept in prison for life.
But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision said it was cruel to lock up teenagers for life without parole. So both Harris and Massey are back for automatic new sentences of 25 years to life. If the state Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board agrees, they could be released in the next several months since they've already served 25 years.
However, it's also possible the board could vote that one or both remain in prison the rest of their lives which is something the prosecutor's office supports.
"We believe that the life without parole sentence that was imposed originally was appropriate," said deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer.
The marina where the murder took place is now just charred remains with the Wang family saying it's hard to move on.
But Harris hopes this situation leads to his release so he can start a new life with his new wife Anna, vowing to be a productive member of society.