- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

HOUSTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) — Jurors began deliberation Wednesday in the murder trial of a Houston-area dentist who allegedly ran down her husband with her Mercedes-Benz after catching him with another woman.

Clara Harris, 45, could be acquitted or found guilty of murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide. If convicted of murder she could receive a life sentence or a reduced sentence if jurors rule she acted in "sudden passion" rather than premeditation.

The jury deliberated for about seven hours Wednesday and then was sequestered for the night.

Harris was charged with murder after police said she drove her Mercedes-Benz over David Harris three times outside the Nassau Bay Hilton Inn in Friendswood, a Houston suburb, on July 24, 2002.

"It was an accident," she told police after they arrived.

In closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorney George Parnham said the state failed to prove a murder case against his client.

Parnham painted Harris as a devoted wife who was betrayed by her husband and did not go to the hotel with the intent to kill him. As evidence he noted that she had taken her stepdaughter with her.

"Do you really think she would have her daughter in her car if that was her intent?" he asked the jury.

Parnham said Harris believed her husband, also a dentist, was breaking off his affair with former receptionist Gail Bridges. Then Harris learned July 24 from a private investigator she had hired that he was at the hotel with the woman, the attorney said.

Parnham questioned the testimony of state witnesses that Harris drove the car over her husband three times, reminding the jurors that a defense expert said the victim was struck only once.

In her own testimony, Harris said she was aiming her car at Bridges' car in the parking lot and not her husband. She testified she couldn't remember exactly what happened, except finding David Harris on the pavement.

"I couldn't understand why he was there," she said. "I held his face. There was a little line of blood coming from his ear. I said, `David, David, talk to me.' His eyes were half open. His mouth was halfway open. He seemed to be in and out of consciousness."

Prosecutors asked the jury to put sympathy out of their minds as they discuss the evidence in the case.

"There is an issue that's going to surface, and it's sympathy," said prosecutor Mia Magness. "That is an issue that's not appropriate to consider."

A key witness for the prosecution was Lindsey Harris, the 17-year-old stepdaughter who was in the car with Harris that night. She said her stepmother was out for revenge and intended to hit her father.

"She said, 'I'm going to hit him,'" Lindsey Harris testified during the four-week trial.

"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."

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