- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

HOUSTON A nine-woman, three-man jury sentenced Clara Harris to 20 years in prison yesterday for killing her husband by running over him with her new Mercedes-Benz after finding him in a suburban hotel with his lover.
Harris, who remained stoic Thursday when found guilty of murder, broke down in tears at the hearing yesterday. Her attorneys comforted her as her knees buckled, and she put her head in her hands and sobbed loudly.
The verdict came on what would have been the Harrises' 11th wedding anniversary.
The jury decided that Harris, 45, acted with "sudden passion," then gave her the maximum sentence under that provision. The range of possibilities went from probation to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 10 years.
David Harris' mother, father and brother consoled Clara Harris. They had strongly testified for her, saying she loved her husband, and was a terrific wife and mother. They said they had forgiven her for killing Dr. Harris, who was 45.
Spectators in the packed county courtroom heard from both lead lawyers, friends of Harris' and family members.
In her closing argument yesterday morning, prosecutor Mia Magness made an impassioned plea to send the convicted dentist to prison. Had the jury agreed to 10 years or less, the defendant would have been eligible for probation.
Mrs. Magness argued that the state had proved that Harris had intentionally run down her husband with her new $56,000 Mercedes-Benz and deserved to pay heavily.
"Probation, scratch that," she said.
"You are not asked to punish her as a person," the prosecutor said, "but you're asked to punish her conduct. Her conduct of July 24 is what you should be basing your decision on."
The prosecution had an eyewitnesses who testified that Harris had run over the man, then gunned the automobile in two swings around the hotel parking lot and ran over him twice more. A videotape showed the erratic swerving but was inconclusive as to how many times the victim was run over.
She called Harris, a former beauty queen from Colombia, "selfish" for involving Dr. Harris' 17-year-old daughter in her crime.
The teenager, Lindsey, was the prosecution's main witness and had been riding in the passenger seat when her father was run over. She described it vividly to the jury and swore that her stepmother "knew exactly what she was doing" in killing her father.
Defense lawyer George Parnham, speaking quietly, slowly, painted Harris as a woman degraded and taunted by her philandering husband, a woman "out of control" that evening.
He said Dr. Harris flaunted his monthslong affair with a receptionist at their dental clinic.

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