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A mistrial was declared Tuesday, June 18, in the murder case against James Mayer Harris Jr. of Blanco County, who was accused of killing his stepson. The trial started June 10 in the 424th Judicial District Courtroom with Judge Evan Stubbs presiding.

To avoid a retrial, Harris pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of a family member with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury or death. As part of the plea deal, he was sentenced to 10 years’ deferred adjudication, which is a type of probation that can only be granted by a judge. Harris will have to comply with certain conditions to serve his sentence in the community rather than jail. Any violation of those conditions will result in imprisonment.

Harris was charged with murder in the Aug. 28, 2021, death of his 25-year-old stepson, Donald Boumans, in Blanco County. The venue was changed to Llano County as preparations for a jury trial began.

The jury split down the middle on whether or not the shooting was in self-defense, District Attorney Wiley “Sonny” McAfee told DailyTrib.com. 

Judge Stubbs declared a mistrial on the first-degree felony murder charge. Harris then pleaded to the lesser first-degree felony.

DA McAfee said he had planned to retry the case, but when the plea offer was made, he conferred with family members of the deceased and changed his mind. 

“I think, under the circumstances, it was the right thing to do,” he said. “The family agreed with me.”

The trial was one of four murder cases that have been on the docket for the 33rd/424th Judicial Districts since the spring. The district includes Burnet, Llano, Blanco, and San Saba counties. 

The other three will be on the docket in August, when the one most prepared for trial will begin jury selection. They include:

  • Dennis Wayne Price II, who faces a first-degree murder charge in the Oct. 3, 2022, death of his wife, Carrie Ann Price, in Kingsland. He is out on a $1 million bond. 
  • Jimmy D. Wolfenbarger, who is accused of the 2006 killing of Holly Marie Simmons in Buchanan Dam. He is out on a $2 million bond. 
  • Jordan Eric Ostrander, one of two people charged with capital murder in  the Jan. 14, 2023, deaths of 38-year-old Preston Wessling and his 14-year-old son, Evan, in Tow. Also charged was Kyler Nathaniel Allen. Both are being held in the Burnet County Jail without bail.

suzanne@thepicayune.com