Jury convicts Harris of second degree murder and recommends 25 years in prison

May 13, 2022 | Courts|Featured

By SHARON ROWEN | © www.kaynewscow.com

NEWKIRK — A jury found Jerry Louis Harris, 68, Ponca City, guilty of second degree murder in the strangulation death of his wife, 55-year-old Linda Jones Harris, on July 17, 2020.

Harris was facing first degree murder, deliberate intent, however the jury chose the lesser charge and suggested a 25 year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Before deliberations began, Judge David Bandy gave the jury instructions and explained the elements of first degree murder which are: Death; Death resulting from an act; Death caused by the defendant, and malice and fore thought.

Assistant District Attorney Shawna Taylor told the jury that the statements made by Harris to police showed that the act was voluntary and that he was anxious to let everyone know what he had done. She told the jury that the crime fits all the elements of first degree murder.

“Five minutes is a long time to put your hands around someone’s neck, especially someone who loves you,” she said. “For him to say, ‘She caused this,’ sounds like a 6-year-old and not a 65-year-old man.”

Harris’ defense attorney Thomas Griesedieck, told the jury during his closing statements that a single reasonable doubt is enough to find Harris not guilty of first degree murder.

“We are not challenging that Linda is not dead and we are not challenging that Jerry is responsible,” said Griesedieck. “The jury is responsible to choose between first and second murder.”

He told the jury that within 50 minutes of police arriving at the Harris home, Jerry was placed under arrest and signing rights. He said that prosecutors suggested that attempts made by Harris to isolate Linda from friends was domestic violence.

“It was not isolating, it was trying to say it is not a good idea to hang out with those people who had felony convictions,” said Griesedieck.

He said that the statements made by Jerry including, “I snapped” and “I hope she is dead.” shows that it was not pre-meditated.

“I’m not saying it is okay to kill another human,” said Griesedieck. “But he ought to be convicted of the crime that he committed, not one he didn’t. Mr. Harris knows he needs to be punished and I’m going to ask you to choose second degree murder because it is a more appropriate charge. She died. He did it, but he didn’t plan it.”

District Attorney Brian Hermanson did the final round of closing arguments. 

He told the jury that he disagreed with much of what Griesedieck said and then demonstrated how long Jerry said he strangled Linda by having the jury look at a clock.

“Start now,” he said. 

Silence took over the room as the second hand made its way around the clock. When it reached the starting point, Hermanson said, “One minute has gone by.”

As the second hand began another trip around the clock basin, Hermanson told the jury that during this time Linda was begging for her life and that Jerry is grabbing her so hard he is leaving scratches on her neck.

The second hand reaches the starting point a second time.

“Two minutes have gone by,” said Hermanson. 

A third minute begins to tick away and the only sounds that can be heard are weeping from Linda’s family members.

“Three minutes have gone by,” said Hermanson. 

Finally the fourth and final minute ticks by and Hermanson stops the clock.

“The medical examiner said it took 4-6 minutes to kill her. Every second of that four minutes he had intent. When he heard her begging for life his forethought was I’m going to continue to choke her. This is not second degree murder this is first degree murder and he deserves life with out parole. He needs a severe punishment. Linda got the death penalty and she doesn’t get to see her family. Imagine what it was like for her to beg the man she loved for her life.”

Hermanson showed the jury a compilation of video clips from Jerry’s arrest and police interview.

The jury was then given the case at 10:45 a.m.

After the jury left. Judge Bandy asked family members to try and keep their composure.

At 11:40 a.m. the jury sent a question concerning differences between an act, a homicidal act and what an act states.

Judge Bandy replied that they had enough evidence to make a decision.

At 12:15 p.m. the jury came back with a verdict.

Before the judge read it, he asked to meet with the attorneys and Harris.

The group returned and Bandy asked jurors to return to chambers and choose a range of years.

They returned a short time later and revealed that they had found Harris guilty of second degree murder and recommend 25 years.

The crime is an 85 percent crime, so 21 years must be served.

Sentencing is currently set for Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Griesedieck said a pre-sentence investigation may be requested and if so sentencing will be delayed.

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