- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

HOUSTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) — A Houston jury Friday sentenced Clara Harris to 20 years in prison for murdering her husband with her car after catching him with another woman.

The 45-year-old dentist and mother of two appeared to collapse in the grasp of her attorneys when the verdict was announced after six hours of deliberation. The same jury of nine women and three men Thursday convicted Harris of murder.

The jurors could have sentenced Harris to life in prison but ruled she acted with "sudden passion," which provided for a reduced sentence, but they then gave her the maximum 20 years provided under that provision. She could have received as little as two years in prison.

Harris will have to serve half of the 20-year sentence because the jury ruled Thursday that the Mercedes-Benz she used to run down her husband, David, last July outside a hotel was a "deadly weapon." She was also fined $10,000.

Harris was charged with murder after police said she drove her Mercedes-Benz over her husband three times outside the Nassau Bay Hilton Inn in suburban Friendswood. Minutes before, she had just confronted her husband and his mistress in the hotel's lobby.

Ironically, the sentencing came on the 11th anniversary of the Harrises' marriage.

Earlier Friday, defense attorney George Parnham appealed to the jury to have mercy on his client and give her probation because of her twin sons. He said she was "a good mother, a good wife," and she didn't deserve prison time.

Assistant District Attorney Mia Magness told the jurors they should not be overcome by emotion.

"You are not asked to punish her as a person, you are being asked to punish her conduct," she said. "Her conduct of July 24 is what you should be basing your decision on."

Harris testified during the four-week trial, as did her stepdaughter, Lindsey, who was riding with her stepmother in the car the night her father was run down. She said Harris was out for revenge and intent on killing her father.

"She said, 'I'm going to hit him,'" the 17-year-old testified.

"She said it like that's what was going to happen. I screamed, 'No!' lots of times. But she stomped on the accelerator and went straight for him."

During her testimony, Harris said she was aiming for the mistress's car in the parking lot and accidentally struck her husband. An expert defense witness testified that David Harris was hit only once, but state witnesses said he was hit three times.

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