HOUSTON – Defense lawyers brought out an unusual trio of witnesses at the murder trial of a woman accused of running over her cheating husband with a Mercedes, calling on family of the victim to testify on the suspect's behalf.
David Harris' mother, father and brother all supported Clara Harris on Monday, describing her as a loving and caring person. His mother, Mildred Harris, said the suspect has been "more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law."
She described her son's union with Clara Harris on Valentine's Day a decade ago as "a marriage made in heaven."
"Sometimes, I thought she loved him too much," she said. "We were like friends. We could talk to each other because we both loved David."
Clara Harris, 45, allegedly intentionally ran over her 44-year-old orthodontist husband in a hotel parking lot last July after confronting him with his lover. She says the death was an accident.
Prosecutors say the attack was intentional and that David Harris was run over at least twice.
The prosecution called its first rebuttal witnesses after the defense rested Monday.
Officer Rolando Saenz said that earlier testimony by defense witness Steve Irwin, a collision expert, was flawed. Irwin had said that the turning radius of Clara Harris' Mercedes made it impossible for her to circle back and hit David Harris more than once.
Saenz, however, said it is possible to make tighter turns by getting the back end of the car to skid. "As you make a left hand turn, sometimes (the back end) will swing out right and it will change the turning radius," Saenz said.
He also pointed to separate and distinct blood stains on the underside of the car as evidence Harris' orthodontist husband was run over at least two times and possibly more.
But during cross-examination, defense attorney George Parnham said Saenz wasn't involved in the investigation, hadn't interviewed witnesses and implied his only role was to rebut Irwin's testimony.
"I was called in to assist the (district attorney's) office," said Saenz, who later said he only viewed the undercarriage of the Mercedes in photographs.
Although closing arguments aren't expected to begin until Wednesday, District Judge Carol Davies told jurors to bring a toothbrush and any other necessities they might need for an overnight stay Tuesday, when the trial is expected to resume. She said she didn't want them to be caught unprepared if they have to be sequestered.
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 sentence of two to 20 years in prison.