Jury convicts Harris on 19 counts
After nearly five weeks of testimony with almost two weeks of breaks in between, making for a seven week trial that was original expected to last three, the jury in the People v. Harris came back with a verdict that was emotional for everyone who had invested their time in the case. Of the 25 counts charged against Michael Harris, the jury found him guilty of 19 – 18 counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14, and one count of forcible rape on a female child under the age of 14 and at least seven years younger than her perpetrator.
The Sheet caught up with several jury members in the past week to get a closer look at how they arrived at the final verdict. At the request of those interviewed, and in the context that a jury is truly a faceless body, the jurors’ names have not been used. They will just be referred as Juror One and Juror Two.
“The last day of court was the hardest of my life,” stated Juror One, referring to the day of the verdict reading.
The jury was sent into deliberation on Thursday, Dec. 10, and according to Juror Two, had deliberated for approximately 11 hours between Thursday and Friday before they arrived at a verdict.
While Juror One had been unsure of how he would vote when entering the deliberation, Juror Two was confident that Harris was guilty.
“We started out with a round robin to blow off steam,” Juror Two said. She claimed that many in the group were fluctuating on how they felt about the way they would vote.
With all the evidence before them, in the end the pieces they relied most heavily upon were testimonies.
“The computer and the hymen evidence only played into our discussions a little bit,” said Juror One. “While Harris did a good job of explaining the computer porn, in the end it damned him.” Juror One felt the testimony was too precise, like Harris had been using his time in jail to figure out exactly what he was going to say.
Juror Two agreed that while Harris was well spoken and mature in his testimony, it was a big disservice to put him on the stand.
“He was on the stand for too long,” Juror Two said. “I didn’t buy the research on the computer, it was too confusing, which was what it was meant to be.”
Close examinations of the girls’ testimonies convinced the jury that they were not making the allegations up. Juror Two agreed with remarks that District Attorney Todd Graham had made during his closing argument.
“The vagueness [of the girls’ testimonies] was actually a good thing,” said Juror Two. “If they had been lying they would have had more details.”
Juror Two pointed to a statement that one of the twin’s had made during her testimony.
“When [the twin] made the statement about Harris taking her virginity and not even caring about her, she was very mature and lucid,” Juror Two said. “She spoke in language I could understand,” added the Juror, who had a hard time putting herself into the girls’ shoes not having a background like theirs to refer to.
According to both jury members, the six counts that they found Harris not guilty of had been split votes in deliberation.
“The counts were very specific all the way down to the exact room where the events happened,” said Juror One. “They referred to a ‘first time’ and a ‘last time.’ The DA did not do a good job of pinning down the specifics that we needed to come up with a guilty verdict for the counts that referred to a ‘last time’.”
The jury did find Harris guilty of offenses against more than one victim. The 18 charges of lewd and lascivious acts included offenses against all three girls that had made the allegations. While they were ordered not to speculate on what Harris’ sentence would be, both jury members believed that this special allegation would add significant time to Harris’ sentence.
When the verdict was finally read on Friday, Dec. 11, around 4 p.m. it was an emotional scene, according to both jurors.
The twins were there with friends and family, as were the social workers involved in the case. As the verdict was read, each juror had to be polled one by one on whether or not they agreed with the guilty charges. By the time Judge David DeVore finished reading, many in the room were crying, including DA Graham.
It was both jury members understanding that this was one of the biggest cases in Mono County, and therefore a huge win for the young DA.
“Not only that, but I really believe that Todd felt Harris was guilty and he wanted to get him off the street,” said Juror Two.
Both jurors claimed Harris had little expression on his face as the verdict was read.
“He was very stoic,” described Juror One.
“He didn’t have much of a reaction, but he never looked at us [the jury],” added Juror Two.
At the verdict reading, the Jury Foreman also read a prepared statement that was directed at the girls. According to Juror Two the statement apologized for failing the girls as a society and leaving them in the home for too long, even though they attempted to cry out for help.
“The statement ended by telling the girls that they were strong and beautiful, and their future started right then and there,” said Juror Two. “We were able to address Mike through the verdict, so this was our way of addressing the girls.”
While Judge Devore had ordered that no one cheer, clap, or react in any way while the verdict was read, celebrations occurred shortly after in the hallways.
“When the jury walked out the group that was with the girls applauded us,” Juror Two said. “While I understand that it was cause for celebration to them, it wasn’t for me. I know what it means to convict this guy. It’s hard to put someone away, but I didn’t do anything wrong, he was the one committing crimes.”
Both jurors agreed that the entire jury had walked out of deliberation feeling very good about their decision.
“We were convinced we got it right after hashing it out,” Juror One said.
Harris’ sentencing is set for Jan. 22, 2010 at 10 a.m.