Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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My friends, it's stories like the one I came across in Thursday's Houston Chronicle that make me think I'm actually losing touch.

Picture this. Man and wife. Man's having an affair. Wife catches him. Wife runs him down with a car, backing over him a bunch of times. The dead guy's parents then escort wife into court and publicly profess their support for their daughter-in-law.

Do you think this is normal? The parents of the dead guy escort the woman accused of killing their son into court? Uh, am I missing something here? It just boggles the mind, folks. - Rush Limbaugh, 1/24/03

Husband's Parents At Clara Harris' Side

Attorneys Make Opening Statements In Clara Harris Trial



HOUSTON -- Angry wife Clara Harris got into her Mercedes-Benz and deliberately ran over her husband after she tracked him to a hotel and confronted him with his mistress, prosecutors said during opening statements Thursday in the murder trial of the Houston dentist.

"She turned her $70,000 vehicle into a 4,000-pound murder weapon," Harris County assistant prosecutor Mia Magness told jurors at Harris' murder trial. "The evidence will show you she ... hit him again and again and again."

Clara Harris, 44, is charged with murdering her orthodontist husband, David Harris, 44, on the night of July 24 after a confrontation with him and his alleged mistress, Gail Bridges, in the lobby of the Hilton Nasa Clear Lake, Nasa Road 1, in Nassau Bay.

In his opening statement, defense attorney George Parnham described Harris as a woman who only wanted to keep her family together and who "loses it" after discovering husband David Harris with his mistress at the same hotel where he and Clara Harris were married.

"The elevator door opens and out steps David and Gail Thompson Bridges," Parnham said. "David comes over, a martial arts aficionado, pulls his wife and throws her to the floor."

"The defendant attacked Gail Bridges there in the lobby," Magness said. "David Harris at that point told his wife it's over."

Magness said Clara Harris was so obsessed with keeping her husband she hired a private investigator to "get some dirt" on Bridges.

She also gave her husband an ultimatum and when he chose Bridges, Clara Harris got into her car and decided to run him down, Magness said.

"Clara Harris got mad," Magness said. "She intentionally and knowingly hit David Harris with her vehicle and he died as a result. And the bottom line folks is that's murder."

Parnham said Harris was a loving mother and devoted wife who wanted her husband to come home but was heartbroken after finding out he had misled her and would not end his affair.

"You will hear testimony about what happened in the parking lot," Parnham said. "I want you to reserve your judgment until you hear evidence about what physically happened in that parking lot ... whether or not Clara Harris intentionally caused the death of David Harris."

Prosecutors have said they won't comment outside the courtroom until a verdict is reached.

Clara Harris, David Harris' Parents

Jury selection was completed Wednesday after two days of questioning. Each day in court, Clara Harris, who sobbed Thursday as Parnham addressed jurors, has been flanked by her husband's parents, Gerald and Mildred Harris.

"We are a close, loving, Christian family," Gerald Harris said while standing next to his teary-eyed daughter-in-law. "Our ultimate hope in all of this is that this family will remain together as a strong family and that our grandchildren will have their parents. We love Clara and want you to know that we want her to be with her children."

If convicted, Clara Harris faces up to life in prison. However, if jurors determine she acted under the legal definition of sudden passion, they could consider a lighter sentence of two to 20 years in prison.

Sudden passion is legally defined as the following:

  • Accused was provoked by the victim
  • Crime happened at the time of the offense
  • Provocation made an ordinary person so enraged that he or she was incapable of cool reflection

In considering Harris' guilt or innocence, jurors are expected to view a videotape taken in the hotel's parking lot by a private investigator she had hired to follow her husband and to hear from her 17-year-old stepdaughter, Lindsey. She was a passenger in the silver sedan when David Harris was struck and killed.

Accident reconstructionists, psychiatrists, Harris' alleged mistress, police officers, witnesses, neighbors and employees of the couple are among those expected to testify during the trial, which could last several weeks.

"Just like Mrs. Harris, the state of Texas needs fair and impartial jurors," prosecutor Mia Magness told panelists during jury selection Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Parnham said accidents can happen and "nobody has to be negligent."

"I would like to know if there is any member on this jury panel who says, 'Clara, I cannot give you a fair trial,'" the defense attorney inquired.

HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com/metro Section: Local & State


Jan. 23, 2003, 4:43PM

Prosecutor says dentist 'got mad' when husband told her it was over

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

EXTRA

Clara Harris is accused of running over her husband after catching him with his receptionist at a hotel.

function MM_openBrWindow(theURL,winName,features) { //v1.2 window.open(theURL,winName,features); } Photo gallery: From the arrest to the trial
The jury: What we know about them


Video:
Video Jury chosen - Jan. 22.
Video Preparing for the trial - Jan. 19.
(Video courtesy of KHOU, Ch. 11. Webcast and video require Real Player)
From the Chronicle's archives:
The story of Clara and David Harris: They epitomized success and happiness, but underneath the facade... - Jan. 19
The wife: Mother of twins kept to herself - Aug. 4
The mistress: Mistress not a stranger to the spotlight - Aug. 4
The married couple: Victim wanted to end marriage - July 27
A prosecutor told jurors today that Friendswood dentist Clara Harris turned her $70,000 Mercedes-Benz into a 4,000 pound murder weapon after her husband, caught in a hotel tryst with his mistress, told her their marriage was over.

"Clara Harris got mad," said prosecutor Mia Magness in her opening statement. "She had given an ultimatum, and she didn't win."

Nine women and three men are hearing the case of 44-year-old Harris, who is charged with murdering her orthodontist husband, David Harris, by hitting him with her Mercedes in the parking lot of a Clear Lake hotel the evening of July 24. His teenage daughter, who was in the car, is expected to testify, and a private investigator's tape of Harris repeatedly running over her husband is expected to be shown.

"The evidence will show she didn't stop," Magness said. "She hit him again and again and again."

"The bottom line is that's murder," she said.

After the prosecutor's 10-minute speech to the jury, defense attorney George Parnham took 20 minutes to portray the accused as a victim, who cried quietly as he spoke.

After learning about her husband's infidelity with his receptionist, Parnham said, Harris bleached her hair and began sessions at a tanning salon to make herself more attractive. She believed he planned to break off the affair and was relieved to arrive at the Hilton where she feared he might have taken his mistress and discover he was not registered, Parnham said.

When the couple stepped out of an elevator into the hotel lobby, she simply "lost it," Parnham said. David Harris, "a martial arts afficionado," threw his wife to the floor, Parnham said, and the group was escorted outside by hotel employees. It was there that Harris died under the wheels of his wife's Mercedes.

If the jurors convict Clara Harris of murder, she could receive a life sentence, but if they find it was a case of sudden passion, they could give her a much lighter sentence, even probation. Parnham, however, asked jurors to reserve judgment on whether Harris intentionally ran over her husband at all.

The first witness called by the prosecution today said he tried to stop Harris.

Evangelos Smiros, the hotel manager on duty the day of the confrontation, testified that he became alarmed when he arrived in the lobby and noticed the ripped blouse of Gail Bridges, the woman he later learned was David Harris' mistress.

Clara Harris was pointing at her husband and yelling obscenities, Smiros said. The group was escorted outside, where David Harris yelled, "It's over! It's over!" Smiros said. Clara Harris shot angry looks at her husband, Smiros said, adding, "If looks could kill..."

Clara Harris seemed calm as she and her 16-year-old stepdaughter got into their car, but then she "peeled rubber." As her tires squealed and she headed toward the employee parking lot behind the hotel, Smiros said he pounded on her truck and yelled, "Stop, stop, you're going to hurt someone!"

When he caught up, he saw David Harris' body being hurled through the air by the car, then dragged underneath and deposited on the ground. While the Mercedes circled the body twice, Smiros said, the girl trying to get out of the passenger's seat was yelling, "Stop! Stop! You're killing my daddy!" Smiros said. Clara Harris then backed up over the body again before coming to a stop, Smiros said.

But another witness testified today that Clara Harris ran over her husband five times, not three.

Paul Garrett Clark - who earlier said from the witness stand that he jumped over the front desk to help break up a fight between Clara Harris and the woman her husband was seeing at the hotel - said she did "three doughnuts" over her husband, ran over him again and then backed up over him.

Blake Doran, the hotel's bell captain at the time, testified he saw Clara Harris get out of the car and go to her husband. She was sobbing, Doran said, telling him she loved him and saying, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Are you OK?"

Witness: Wife blamed husband after running over him three times

Defense says video may suggest husband wasn't hit multiple times

01/25/2003

Associated Press

HOUSTON - A woman who rushed to aid an orthodontist after he was run over outside a Houston hotel last year testified Friday that she heard the man's wife blame him for the attack.

" 'David, look what you made me do,' " Julie Creger said Dr. Clara Harris told her husband after running him down with her Mercedes-Benz.

Ms. Creger was one of several witnesses to describe the scene July 24 where David Harris, 44, died. His wife, a dentist, is accused of killing him after finding him with another woman.

Friday afternoon, prosecutors played a much-anticipated videotape filmed in the hotel's parking lot that night by a private investigator who Clara Harris, 44, had hired to follow her husband.

But the two-minute videotape, shot from a distance, doesn't show the initial impact. A muffled scream can be heard as it shows a silver car speeding and then driving in circles as other people run toward it.

Prosecutor Mia Magness pointed at something white in the lower right corner near a bush, saying it was David Harris' body. The back wheels of the car could be seen going up and over something, but viewers couldn't tell whether the obstruction was a body or something else.

Clara Harris covered her face and cried while the videotape was played. Jurors showed no response.

"She is just a bundle of nerves, and she is an emotional wreck," her attorney, George Parnham, said after the trial wrapped up for the day.

He said the videotape could help in her defense because it did not show the car reversing or going back and forth.

"It seems to me that it was descriptive of the chain of events that contradicted much of the eyewitness testimony," Mr. Parnham said.

Prosecutors say Clara Harris ran over her husband after he spurned her when she discovered him with the woman. The confrontation came at the same hotel where the Harrises were married on Valentine's Day a decade earlier.

Defense attorneys say Clara Harris "lost it" and didn't intend to kill her husband but only wanted to keep her marriage and family together.

Ms. Creger said that when she reached David Harris, she used a towel to soak up some of the blood that was coming from his head and put her finger in his mouth to try to clear his airway and ease his breathing.

When she pulled out her finger, one of his teeth fell out.

"I removed it and set it on the concrete next to his head," she said. "I realized there was no more help I could give him ... I told him that he needed to keep breathing. That I knew it hurt. That it was going to be OK."

Ms. Creger said she then tried to calm a teenage girl, later identified as David Harris' daughter Lindsey, who was crying hysterically. The witness said the girl told her she was in the car with her stepmother, who struck her father.

" 'Sweetie, did she mean to do this?' " Ms. Creger recalled asking Lindsey.

"What did Lindsey say to you?" prosecutor Magness asked.

"She said, 'Yes,' " Ms. Creger replied.

Another witness, Norma Ramos, testified that David Harris told his wife after she had a physical confrontation at the hotel with the other woman, Gail Bridges: " 'This is over! No more! It's over! It has ended!' "

When defense attorneys cross-examined Ms. Ramos, she said David Harris didn't seem shocked or embarrassed that his wife had found him at the hotel with Ms. Bridges.

If convicted, Clara Harris faces up to life in prison. If jurors determine she acted under the legal definition of sudden passion, they could consider a lighter sentence of two to 20 years in prison.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.


Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dallas/tsw/stories/012503dntexdentist.9f38e.html



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