PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The jury has found a woman accused of shooting and killing her niece last year on her wedding day in Beaver County guilty of
involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
Christina George-Harvan's bond was revoked immediately following the verdict, and she was taken directly back to to jail in tears.
The jury got the case this afternoon after closing arguments wrapped up earlier on Friday.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Brittany Smith asked the jury why George-Harvan, the defendant, handled the Glock involved in the shooting at all. Smith argued that George-Harvan didn't exercise the care necessary to absolve her of negligence in the death of her niece, 21-year-old Katelyn Francis.
George-Harvan, 30, and Francis were celebrating after the wedding at a bar in New Brighton when the two started arguing about who was going to drive home. The accused newlywed's husband had been tossed out of the bar.
Smith told the jury, "She shot somebody. She killed somebody. Do you think she used reasonable care?"
The defendant claims she first saw the gun in a glove box in her husband Jeremy Harvan's truck and that she tried to move it to the middle console and it went off, not knowing how to handle it safely.
"This was an accident. Her attempts to move the gun, as crazy as it sounds, to create a more safe atmosphere," said defense attorney Steve Colafella.
The prosecution claims the gun was always in the middle console and that the defendant lied.
But both sides had little sympathy for her husband Jeremy, who owned the gun legally and always carried the gun, even to church. The defense says he bears some blame.
Colafella during closing arguments talked about how drunk her husband was and how she worried about the gun in his truck.
"Jeremy was wasted," said Colafella. "He was a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. He was out of control, obnoxious and stubborn. He wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. She's panicked. She's a nurse. A person with something to hide doesn't stay and render aid."
The defendant, a nurse, tried to revive the victim.
But prosecutor Brittany Smith countered: "Jeremy was a jerk. Jeremy is a jerk. She picked him. That relationship with Jeremy ain't right. The shooting was a symptom of a larger problem. How convenient to blame it on Jeremy. She needs him to say the gun was in the glove box."
The jury had to decide whether or not George-Harvan was guilty of third-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. The verdict was less than prosecutors hoped for.
"We respect the jury's decision. It's a tough decision and we respect that. Now the family can go about with their grieving," said Smith.
During deliberations, the jury asked to see once again silent surveillance video inside the bar and outside to review the demeanor of some of the people involved. Beaver County Judge Richard Mancini has ruled that the video will not be made available to the media until the trial ends.
Late this afternoon, the jury also asked to see once again the gun involved in this case, and the judge prepared for the prospect that an alternate juror may be needed.
On Thursday, George-Harvan tearfully testified about the hours leading to the shooting and her interaction with the victim.
"I was happy…she was so cute. We were only nine years apart. The first thing she did was say, 'Aunt Tina, I'm so happy for you,' and gave me a big hug."
But as the drinking continued, and she said her husband Jeremy Harvan became belligerent about driving home, the victim asked for his keys. And once inside the car, the defendant noticed his gun.
Of an argument in the car between the victim and her husband over the car keys, George-Harvan testified, "When I turned around, the glove box is open and I see this gun. I think I gotta move this gun. I go get it out of the glove box to move it and boom the gun goes off."
Defense Attorney: "Did you deliberately squeeze the trigger?"
"Everything freezes," George-Harvan testified. "Jeremy says, 'You just shot your [expletive] cousin. He steps over her dying body and he runs. I put pressure on [Katelyn's[ wound and I screamed and dialed 911."
On the stand, she added, "I felt devastated. It was like a nightmare. Your wedding day is supposed to be the best day of your life and my niece is dead."
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