Jurors in the trial of a dentist accused of murder for running over her husband must decide whether they believe her testimony that she had only intended "to hurt him emotionally," not physically, for cheating on her.
Prosecutor Mia Magness said during closing arguments Wednesday that whether or not Clara Harris, 45, wanted to hit David Harris, she should be convicted in his death.
"That's what murder is," Magness argued. "It is the momentary loss of respect for the sanctity of human life."
Jurors were asked to consider murder and the lesser offenses of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for Harris.
Defense attorney George Parnham said jurors needed to consider the mind-set of Clara Harris in July as she watched her 44-year-old orthodontist husband come off a hotel elevator hand-in-hand with his receptionist, Gail Bridges. He said it was an accident when she struck him moments later with her 4,000-pound Mercedes-Benz.
"You're judging the mind of a person and I want you to have the courage to do it," Parnham said. "I want this jury to acquit."
Prosecution witnesses testified that 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.
Jurors deliberated for seven hours Wednesday. They 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 resumed Thursday morning.
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.
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 told jurors. "You cannot excuse what she did intentionally and knowingly because she was hurt."
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."