Closing arguments could decide between prison and exoneration
After nearly five weeks of testimony, the attorneys in the case of People versus Harris were able to begin their closing arguments on Wednesday, Dec. 9. After a week of distracting computer issues, both District Attorney Todd Graham and Defense Attorney Therese Hankel brought the case back to its main objective: have the twin teenage girls of their mother’s former boyfriend invent allegations of molestation and rape against Michael Harris, or did the events, in fact, happen.
Graham began his closing with the following rhetporical questions: “These girls are making this up?” he asked the jury. “They are framing the defendant?” Graham believed this should be the foremost consideration in the minds of the jury as they deliberate, and his read on the evidence was that it clearly showed this was not what the girls had done.
Graham pointed out that the girls had lived a trouble life at home. He referred to the numerous reports to Child Protective Services (CPS) and the lack of action after each report to prove that the girls did not feel protected by the system. He claimed the only people these girls trusted were their friends, which was why the girls were deceptive with police when asked whether or not they had told their friends about the abuse.
At the beginning of the trial, the girls testified they had never told anyone about the abuse until after they had made disclosures to the police and CPS, but as the trial went on and their friends were called to testify, it came out that they had told some of their friends several years before.
“Why would they have lied to their friends when those were the only people they trusted?” Graham asked.
Graham also used the testimony of a third young victim to highlight his point that the girls were not making the allegations up. The third victim is unrelated to the twins, but had been visiting their home when [she alleged] Harris inappropriately touched her. Graham pointed to this third victim’s timid mannerisms on the stand, and admission that she did not want to be in court as proof the girls would not put themselves through this type of trauma unless it were were indeed true.
Graham then leaned on the testimony of a witness who had been recalled the previous day. Nurse Practitioner Cathy Boyle was called back to the stand to refute the defense’s medical expert who stated the twin’s hymens were intact, which meant they had not suffered any abuse. Boyle had stated in her original testimony that the girls’ hymens were not normal.
While on the stand for the second time, Boyle used a study that she had been involved with to prove that the girls’ hymens were not normal. In Boyle’s study she had looked at 239 teens with hymen injuries. She brought in photos to show that these injuries often healed without scarring. Since the girls had not been examined until some time after the alleged abuse, Boyle felt scars would not necessarily be evident. She did, however, point to what she described as deep clefts in the girls’ hymens as proof that they had been abused at one point. She referred to another study, this time not one she was a part of, that had examined approximately 800 non-abused kids as they grew from 0-10 years of age. Only one child had a deep cleft in her hymen. The study concluded that this child had most likely been abused but had not disclosed yet. The study therefore stated that deep clefts in hymens are signs of abuse. Graham pointed to this testimony, stating that while Boyle was clearly an expert on this subject; the defense’s medical expert had not even been able to correctly identify which way the girls had been positioned when they were examined. The defense’s expert had stated that the girls had been lying on their sides, but Boyle, who had actually conducted the examination pointed out that in fact the girls had been lying on their backs.
As for the questionable computer evidence, Graham felt that the testimony of the defense’s computer expert, Rick Albee, should be tossed aside. Graham claimed that there was no evidence of the defendant’s original hard drive being replaced or tampered with. He felt that Albee had been “hurrying along” on the day he had testified because he had just been able to see the actual drive for the first time.
Graham also believed Harris’ testimony should be thrown out. He described the key logger as a “window into the mind of Harris,” and discounted Harris’ testimony of doing research into porn sites as ridiculous.
“These sites excited Harris and got him hot,” Graham said.
He concluded by pointing out that the twins were the ideal victims. They came from messy backgrounds and lived with a mother who often left them alone with the defendant.
“But just because they come from a broken home doesn’t mean they are liars,” Graham said.
Hankel grabbed the jury’s attention by loudly chanting a cheer and clapping at the beginning of her closing argument.
“P-P-PRI, S-S-SON, PRI-SON, PRISON, PRISON, We’re gonna send him to Prison,” Hankel chanted, referring to the taped interview of one of the twins where social worker Alex Ellis can be seen in the background mouthing the word prison. Hankel stated that this type of behavior was not due process, whether or not Ellis had the girls’ best interest at heart.
She reminded the jury that her client was innocent until proven guilty, and stated that the lack of details from the prosecution’s witnesses was shocking.
“Lack of details and inconsistencies show a liar,” Hankel told the jury. “There is absolutely no case here, certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt.” She claimed the only specific detail the twins had been able to give throughout the entire case was that the events of abuse had occurred “more than one time.”
She believed that the third, young victim was just a confused bystander. She felt that the police report that describe that this young woman had gone home with blood on her underwear could have just been the girl starting her period.
“We never saw a medical report for this girl,” Hankel pointed out.
Hankel then continued to try and convince the jury that the twins had simply made up the allegations in order to get out of their home. She claimed that she didn’t think the girls had wanted it to go this far, but it had. Hankel stated that none of the allegations had been investigated.
“All the girls had to say was he put his ‘wee wee’ in me and the D.A. bought it,” Hankel said. She described the girls’ emotional outbursts during their testimonies as “hissy fits” that they threw as soon as someone dared to challenge their statements.
Hankel relied heavily on the many notes and journal entries that the girls had written over the years to prove they had made the allegations up. One of the twins had kept a personal journal where she wrote about everything under the sun except any abuse by Harris. While on the stand this twin had stated that several pages of her journal went missing while the journal had been in the other twin’s possession for safe keeping. Hankel questioned why her sister would have removed any pages.
Hankel discounted Boyle’s testimony, stating that the prosecution should have brought in another opinion besides the person who had performed the girls’ medical examinations. She claimed Boyle would not have wanted to admit she read the results of her examination incorrectly.
In regard to the computer evidence, Hankel pointed out that Harris had claimed much of the “bad stuff,” or child porn related sites and information, as his own.
“If he had wanted to lie to you, he could have disowned all of it,” Hankel explained.
Hankel wrapped up her closing argument on Thursday morning. The jury began its deliberations soon thereafter.
The jury will determine whether or not Harris is guilty of the 25 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, and forcible rape of a child under 14.
Check the Sheet blog for updates at www.mammothsheet.blogspot.com.