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Life or death sentence expected today

By Ed Brock

Debra Fulton shed barely a tear in imploring a jury not to sentence her son to death for killing a Hampton woman and her daughter after abducting them from a southern Clayton County park.

She just invoked the name of God.

“I pray that his life will be spared so he can help somebody along the way,” Fulton said Monday at the trial of her son Wesley Vandale Harris. “I pray you all will search your hearts and make a good decision because it's something you'll have to live with.”

Later she added that “we will be judged by God according to how we judged others.”

On Friday the jury to which Fulton was speaking had found 27-year-old Harris guilty of the Nov. 8, 1999 murders of 22-year-old Whitney Land and her 2-year-old daughter Jordan. Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said Harris, who was living in Jonesboro at the time, took the mother and daughter from Panhandle Park in Clayton County, killed them in Gwinnett County and left their bodies in a burning car.

After the conviction, in the beginning of the sentencing phase of the trial, Land's mother Sheila Howell of Hampton talked about how her daughter and granddaughter's death had affected her life. On Monday several members of Harris' family and friends testified on his behalf, asking the jury for mercy.

Along with Fulton the witnesses included Harris' stepfather, brother, cousin, two aunts, two old friends and his pastor from his youth in Albany.

“I believe if you spare his life, no matter who he meets he will have a positive influence,” said Charles Clinton King, Jr., Harris cousin who said Harris had been his mentor while growing up.

The witnesses remembered Harris as a talented artist, a kind and caring person and the father of a young boy. Fulton described taking 6-year-old Wesley Harris Jr. to see his father in jail.

“He'd just say Daddy, why can't you come from behind the glass,” Fulton said.

During his cross examinations, however, Porter asked several witnesses, including Harris' brother Xavier Harris, about Harris' drinking, drug use and carrying a gun. Wesley Harris had been stopped by police prior to the killings leaving an apartment complex after drinking, smoking marijuana and with a gun in the car, Porter said.

“You knew because he was living with you that Wesley was headed in the wrong direction,” Porter asked Xavier Harris.

“I saw he needed guidance,” Xavier Harris responded.

Several of the witnesses made sure to express their sympathy with the victims' family who were also in the courtroom on Monday.

“A grandmother should never have to see their baby pass on,” said Harris' aunt Patsy King.

Closing arguments are expected to be heard today and the jury will then make its decision, life in prison or death by lethal injection.