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Jury weighs evidence in wife's killing of husband

Thursday, February 13, 2003

HOUSTON -- A jury began deliberations Wednesday in the murder trial of a woman who ran down her husband with her Mercedes after catching him and his lover at a hotel.

Clara Harris, 45, who insisted the death last July was an accident, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. The jury can also consider lesser charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Mia Magness said Harris, 45, simply could have divorced her husband and "taken him to the cleaners" but chose to kill him instead.

"She ran over him again and again and again," Magness said. "No doubt she was sorry when she was done, but she knew what she was doing."

Defense attorney George Parnham said jurors needed to consider the mind-set of Clara Harris as she watched her orthodontist husband come off a hotel elevator hand-in-hand with his receptionist, Gail Bridges. She ran him down in the parking lot minutes later.

Prosecution witnesses testified David Harris, 44, was run over at least twice, with one saying he saw the man hit as many as five times. A defense expert testified Harris was hit once, carried atop the sedan and then run over.

Parnham called Bridges "a homewrecker" and recalled the testimony of David Harris' mother that his 1992 union with Clara Harris was "a marriage made in heaven."

"Until somebody knocks on the door of that home and the heart of that family," Parnham said. "Gail Thompson Bridges ... was after David. She was after his heart."

The jury deliberated for six hours Wednesday. It returned to the courtroom at one point to have testimony read back from the transcript in which Clara Harris said she "wanted to separate" her husband from Bridges but that she only wanted "to hurt him emotionally." Deliberations resume Thursday.

Clara Harris told jurors she tried to save her marriage after learning of the affair. She said she scheduled breast enhancement and liposuction surgeries, joined a gym, quit her job, cooked her husband's favorite meals and had sex with him three times a night in the week leading up to his death.

"There is a level of desperation there that I know touches you and you feel sorry for her because of it," Magness said. But "you cannot excuse what she did intentionally and knowingly because she was hurt."

Parnham asked that jurors acquit his client.

Clara Harris, who often wept during the four-week trial, wiped tears from her eyes Wednesday. Her 17-year-old stepdaughter, Lindsey Harris, who was a passenger in the car as her father was killed and testified against her stepmother, also cried during the final remarks.


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