Gregory Harris

This turned out to be an odd case for me as I remain on the fence as to the guilt of the person charged and convicted.  I will admit that I lean towards the fact that the man is guilty, but I am unsure that I feel he received a fair trial, but in fairness I am unsure that a completely unbias and fair trial would have been possible.  It even appears that the jury had their own issues with what happened.

When the victim, or even a defendant, in a crime has made a career working in the legal system it is often difficult to find people who did not know one or both of the parties, or have some association with them.  Such is the case against Gregory Harris in Baton Rouge Louisiana.  His wife, Chiquita Patrece Tate was a well known defense attorney in the area, she also appears to have been a long time resident too (possibly lifetime), and had done much of her law studies in the area.  This included working as an intern for other attorneys as well as judges.

In the early morning of February 20, 2009 Greg Harris would claim that he had gone to his wife's law office after she had not returned home the evening before.  He would claim that he found her in her office, dead.  Chiquita had been stabbed close to forty times.  He would call 9-1-1 and would be outside the building to flag down a police officer.

Two days later Greg Harris was arrested, but not for murder.  He was arrested because it was found that there was a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear on a seat belt ticket.  When he went to court the following day he was fined ten dollars and was to be released but then investigators charged him with the murder of his wife.  They argued that injuries on his hands and arms appeared to be from cuts and scratches.  I am uncertain just how much time he was in jail at that point but once he made bail on that charge it seems he was re-arrested on possession of stolen property charges (although I was unable to determine what this stemmed from).  By all appearances it looked as if almost immediately investigators were doing all they could to keep Greg Harris behind bars.  Again, I am uncertain how long it was before he bonded out on these charges but three days after his release the police would be back at his home, only this time not to arrest him.  It was reported that shots had been fired in his home.  Neither he, nor his mother who was staying with him, were injured.

In 2011 a jury would find Greg Harris guilty, not of 2nd degree murder as the prosecution had been hoping for but of a manslaughter charge.  The state of Louisiana has a different set of laws than the rest of the country and while in general a conviction requires a unanimous vote, as well as in most cases a charge not offered cannot be found, that does not seem to be the case here. In this case the jury had voted 11-1 on the manslaughter charge.  This conviction is odd for several reasons.  Aside from the fact of Louisiana law being much different the conviction of manslaughter indicated that the defendant did not intentionally mean to kill the victim.  While this is can be obvious in some cases, this seems difficult here since the victim was stabbed nearly forty times.  One could not reasonably believe that death would not occur after that many strikes. However, again, this is the decision that the jury in this case made. The judge would sentence him to forty years in prison.

So, what kind of evidence did they have against Harris?  In my opinion not a whole lot.  The prosecution argued that six weeks before the couple had married in February of 2008 Tate had called 9-1-1 saying that Harris had beat and choked her.  There was a report of this and a possible charge, but I cannot be certain.  What I can be certain about is that this was mentioned in his trial. Also, two former girlfriends of Harris' testified he had been physically abusive towards them when they were in a relationship with him.  Clearly the prosecution showed that Harris was an abusive person.  The prosecution also presented witnesses who testified that the marriage between Tate and Harris was nearing the end and there were reports that she had leased an apartment for herself. What was unclear was whether the couple remained living together and I think this is something of importance.  As you remember Harris would claim to go looking for his wife after she failed to return home the previous night.  If they were not living together this would make this reason seem odd.  

As far as forensics I found nothing in which described a weapon being found so there seemed to be no evidence tying him to a weapon.  The prosecutors did argue that a pair of safety glasses had been found under the seat of Tate's car and a bottle of Clorox bleach had been found at Harris' home both containing a mixture of both Tate and Harris' blood.  It does appear that fingernail clippings were taken from Tate and Harris' DNA was found, however, it was admitted that there was also the DNA of an unknown male found.  The interesting thing about this is that the prosecution argued that the unknown male "could have" come from Tate's client that she had seen earlier in the day as they were preparing for a court date. The problem that I have with this is that Tate was a criminal defense attorney so it would be reasonable to believe that her client's DNA would be on record or at the very least easily obtainable to prove one way or another who the "unknown male" DNA belonged to.  Of course had it been proven that the unknown male did in fact belong to her client the defense could have argued that person was responsible for the murder, but the prosecution could have just as easily offered proof that that the client and victim had been together that day as from my understanding it was a court hearing.  And yet it does not seem that the prosecution proved this.  

After his conviction Harris appealed the verdict on several counts.  One of them was on the basis that the judge in his case, Judge Trudy White had mentored Tate while in law school.  It was proven that Tate had clerked under Judge White and they were involved in an organization together.  The appeal argued that Judge White should have reclused herself but instead had down played her relationship with Tate.  The appeals court disagreed and affirmed the conviction and sentence, however, I am not sure that I agree.  Again, the fact that Tate was well known in the community among attorney's and judges would have made it difficult to have a fair trial anywhere in the county but I do believe this judge should have removed herself, if for no other reason than to not give the defense a reason to appeal.  

In 2015 Harris would argue that he believed a man who had died in 2013 had committed the murder.  Tate had represented one of his two brothers that had been charged with a murder.  However, again there seems to be little proof of this not to mention that it appears that Tate had successfully at the very least delayed any prosecution of the man's brother.  Of course that does not mean that another client of hers could not have been responsible for her murder, but again there has been no proof.

As I said at the start I do lean toward Greg Harris' guilt in this case but I do not feel he received a fair trial.  I think there are questions as to Judge White's association; I think the "unknown male" DNA leaves unanswered questions and I am uncertain why the prosecution did not pursue attempts to identify this evidence; And I believe the jury compromised on a verdict and I would like to know why.  

Only time will tell if more information will come to light in this case.  Until then Greg Harris will remain in prison.  

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