A Spokane man faces a minimum of 45 years in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of two counts of murder that followed a dispute over a car swap.
The jury convicted 28-year-old Merle W. Harvey of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death Sept. 26, 2009, of 41-year-old Jack T. Lamere. The jury also convicted Harvey of second-degree murder for the killing of 45-year-old Jacob J. Potter, who happened to be with Lamere on the day of the shooting.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Dale Nagy said Harvey faces a minimum of 45 years because the murder convictions must be served consecutively. The jury found that Harvey used a gun in the commission of the killings, which added 10 years to the murder sentences. His sentencing is set for 3 p.m. on Oct. 22.
“I think it was a just verdict,” Nagy said. “And most importantly … the family is pleased.”
Terry Eaglefeather, 67, Lamere’s uncle, yelled “all right” as Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen read the verdict.
“We are really happy that this has come to a justifiable closure,” Eaglefeather said. “We’re grateful … the prosecutor did a great job. There is no happy ending in this.”
Pamela Hawkes, Potter’s niece, said she felt the same way.
“It makes me feel like the trial and the time I spent here wasn’t a waste of time,” she said. “If (Potter) hadn’t been there, he might still be alive. He might be able to see his grandchild and daughter.”
Before the verdict, Harvey rocked in his chair at a table flanked by his two attorneys. When Eitzen finished reading the verdict, Harvey began wiping tears from his eyes. Corrections deputies led him away before he could make any comment.
Public Defender Scott Mason had no comment following the verdict. But on Tuesday, he asked the jury to justify Harvey’s actions as self-defense against Lamere, who during the dispute retrieved a gun from his apartment.
Lamere and Harvey had a running dispute that included a fight between their girlfriends. Harvey testified that Lamere came over to his residence and sheared off his girlfriend’s hair. Later, the two men agreed to trade Harvey’s 1978 Chevy Blazer for Lamere’s Cadillac, which broke down.
Harvey tried for two months to get his Blazer back and on Sept. 26 last year went to retrieve it from 1310 W. Boone Ave. Lamere was working on a vehicle that day and the dispute escalated after Lamere went into his apartment and brought out a pistol.
Harvey testified that he saw Potter put a gun in his shirt, but it turned out to be a flashlight.
“You don’t have to wait until the bullets are flying,” Mason told the jury. “You have the right to act on appearances if it is reasonable. And it was reasonable in this situation. The only reason (Harvey) shoots Mr. Potter is because he believed he was working with Mr. Lamere to hurt him.”
But Nagy pointed out that Harvey told Spokane police Detective Chet Gilmore that everything would have been fine if he had not gone to Lamere’s apartment that day.
“Does a reasonably prudent person go hunting for Mr. Lamere … with loaded guns to get that 1978 Blazer back? He was either going to get that Blazer back or Mr. Lamere was going to die that day,” Nagy said. “Two men are dead over a 1978 Blazer. That’s why we are here.”