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Jury recommends life for two-time murderer

Over a prosecutor's argument that it would be "a reward" to spare Michael Harvis the electric chair, a jury on Monday recommended a life sentence for the two-time murderer.

The same jury on Saturday convicted Harvis, 17, of first-degree murder for shooting bicyclist Robert Coleman at 39th Street and E Wilder Avenue on Dec. 28. Coleman, shot in the leg, bled to death.

During Monday's sentencing phase of the trial, witnesses testified about Harvis' limited mental capacity and tough upbringing by a mother who herself spent time in prison.

"He's not normal," said Harvis' attorney, Manuel Lopez. "He's a brain-damaged 17-year-old retarded kid.

"What will taking his life accomplish? We've had the death penalty in this country for 20 years, and you still pick up the paper and read about murder and rape every day."

Assistant State Attorney Ty Tison had argued that, despite his age, mental shortcomings and hard life, Harvis deserved the death penalty. In addition to shooting Coleman, Tison pointed out, Harvis participated in another armed robbery just 25 days later that killed 17-year-old Isaac Velasquez.

"That's why it's a death case," Tison argued. "People died for money, for cocaine, for whatever it was they had to give up." In Coleman's case, Tison said, it was three pennies and a Batman watch.

Last month, Harvis was found guilty of third-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and attempted robbery with a gun in the Velasquez case.

Sentencing in both cases has been set for Wednesday.

_ BRUCE VIELMETTI

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