Christopher Harris wants new trial
Facing life sentence, says judge erred
Alleging judicial error, Christopher Harris, convicted in May of murdering five members of the Gee family with a tire iron, wants a new trial.
Meanwhile, the Logan County circuit clerk’s office last Friday released photos of Harris taken the day after the slayings, hours before the bodies were found in the Gees’ home in Beason, where Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children, ages 11, 14 and 16, were beaten to death with a tire iron; Tabitha Gee, 3, miraculously survived at least two blows to her head. Illinois Times had sought the photos since they were introduced into evidence, but Circuit Court Judge Scott Drazewski had refused, saying that he would consider a request only if the newspaper hired a lawyer and filed a motion to intervene in the case.
In the photos taken by Kristi Moore, a girlfriend whom Harris visited about 12 hours after the murders, the killer smiles and smooches, showing no sign of anything being amiss. Harris, who took the stand and said that he visited Moore “for comfort,” told jurors that he had, in fact, been in the house and seen the battered bodies. He claimed that Dillen Constant, Ruth Gee’s 14-year-old son, had killed his family and that he killed Dillen in self defense.
The jury didn’t buy it, and the photographs of Harris posing with Moore just hours after the slayings were powerful enough that the prosecution displayed one during closing arguments. The point was obvious: How could anyone but a psychopath see something so gruesome – at least one juror looked away when stomach-churning photos of the bodies were shown -- and appear so cavalier just hours later?
Harris’ motion for a new trial is, essentially, a listing of motions denied by Drazewski, including a request for the jury to visit the Gee home, a motion to bar prosecutors from telling the jury that Harris had a prior theft conviction, a motion to show jurors crime-scene photos during jury selection, a request for additional challenges to dismiss potential jurors and a ruling that limited testimony by Craig Anderson, a psychologist hired by the defense who said that Dillen had a history of violent behavior that signaled a propensity for violence. Harris’ lawyers also say that the jury should have been allowed to hear that Ruth Gee had once told Dillen’s therapist that she feared that he would hurt himself or others and that Rick Gee had once told his mother that he was concerned that Dillen might harm his family. Those statements were ruled inadmissible hearsay.
Harris’ lawyers also argue that Drazewski should have dismissed the case after the prosecution rested because prosecutors had not met their burden of proof. But Harris’ lawyers during trial spent less than two minutes arguing that point at the conclusion of the prosecution’s case. Such motions for directed verdicts by defense attorneys are routine during criminal trials.
In the end, the jury deliberated less than five hours before finding Harris guilty on all counts. Sentencing scheduled for July 19 is a formality, given that the only possible penalty under state law is life in prison.
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.
Click here to see photographs of Christopher Harris hours after the murders (PDF): http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-159-.pdf