DECATUR — A Decatur man serving 60 years for the murder of his wife is now in trouble with appeals judges who have accused him of filing too many frivolous appeals of his sentence.
In an opinion handed down Tuesday rejecting 55-year-old Willie Harper’s latest appeal, the Appellate Court of the Fourth District ordered “defendant to show cause within 30 days as to why sanctions should not be entered” against him.
The appeals court has also told its own clerk to “disregard” any further appeals from Harper, who was convicted in 2002 of beating and strangling 30-year-old Tammy Hackl Harper to death in their Decatur apartment. The couple had gotten married on Valentine’s Day in 2000 and her body had been discovered Feb. 18.
Court records show he filed his first appeal in 2002, then another in 2005, later amended in 2006, and then another in 2009, 2010 and 2016, all rejected. He was then denied leave to file further appeals but was able to file a new action, which led to an appeal, in August 2016, this time citing the need for fresh DNA testing to eliminate him as the killer.
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The appeals judges have now rejected this latest appeal, however, on the grounds that Harper had never previously maintained mistaken identity was at issue. His former defense claims had been built around “provocation and self-defense” among other causes.
The judges went on to criticize Harper for wasting the legal system’s time: “...He has filed in the trial court numerous petitions, motions and other miscellaneous pleadings — no matter how repetitive or futile — in an attempt to evade the consequences of killing his wife. … Defendant’s continuing abuse of the court system has squandered judicial resources that could have been better spent addressing claims by good-faith litigants.”
In addition to considering unspecified sanctions against Harper, it said he should be made responsible for paying filing fees and actual court costs for his latest “frivolous” appeal.