A judge earlier this week warned a Turlock man convicted of murder and arson that he must behave while in custody, or she could consider his misbehavior in jail as a factor in his sentencing.
In June, a jury found Nicholas John Harris guilty of second-degree murder and arson in the death of 25-year-old Mark Anthony Henson. Harris pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The same jury returned to the courtroom two months later for Harris’ sanity trial. The jurors decided Harris was sane when he stabbed Henson and burned the victim’s car in Turlock.
The 27-year-old defendant now faces a maximum sentence of 19 years to life in prison. Harris appeared in court for a brief hearing Thursday morning.
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Steven O’Connor, Harris’ attorney, said he will file a motion for a new trial, but he had not yet received a transcript of the trial. The judge postponed Harris’ sentencing hearing until Oct. 30. The sentencing can’t take place until after the defense has an opportunity to argue for a new trial.
The Stanislaus County Probation Department on Sept. 11 filed a report to give the court a sentencing recommendation. The report indicates jail officials have issued seven incidents of misconduct for Harris.
Harris is alleged to have been in possession of contraband and another person’s property while in custody at the sheriff’s Public Safety Center, according to the probation report.
The defendant also is accused of assault and battery on other inmates, disruptive conduct and “gassing,” which means throwing or placing human excrement or other bodily fluids or substances on another person. The criminal charge is typically used for incidents involving jail inmates.
Before the bailiff ushered Harris out of the courtroom Thursday, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden warned the defendant that any evidence of misconduct could be used against him by the prosecution in his sentencing hearing.
The judge also told Harris that she could factor in that evidence when deciding how long his prison sentence will be. Harris remains at the jail until his sentencing.
The stabbing occurred Aug. 12, 2008. The prosecutor argued that Harris wanted to eliminate the man he believed had been bothering his then-girlfriend.
Harris found Henson sleeping in the front seat of his four-door Mitsubishi sedan. A struggle ensued. Deputy District Attorney Michael Houston told the jury that Harris repeatedly stabbed Henson in the back. Eleven stab wounds were found on Henson, according to an autopsy report.
The defendant then set Henson’s car on fire as the injured man staggered down the street looking for help. Henson died later at a hospital.
The probation report indicates that one neighbor heard Henson screaming “Help me, I’m dying,” as he walked up to his front door. The neighbor described the victim’s voice as a “gurgled sound.”
Authorities found Henson on a home’s front porch, hunched over at the waist next to a large pool of blood.
Probation officials spoke to Henson’s mother, Christie Henson, on Aug. 29. “This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, the loss of my son,” she told probation officials.
She said she would like for Harris to spend the rest of his life in prison, but she realizes the defendant likely will be released from prison at some point. She said her son did not deserve to be brutally attacked, according to the probation report.
“Harris ambushed my son and attacked him in the worst possible way,” she told probation officials. “He is the worst kind of monster and a complete coward for what he did against my son.”