Clara Harris (C) shows no emotion as she is found guilty while standing with attorneys George Parnham (R) and Emily Munoz (L) in her murder trial, February 13, 2003, in Houston.
Clara Harris, the suburban dentist convicted of driving over her cheating husband several times during a jealous rage, repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Tuesday while testifying in a $5 million civil trial filed against her by her former in-laws.
"On the advice of my counselor, I'm going to claim the Fifth Amendment right," a sobbing Clara Harris, dressed in a baggy orange prison jumpsuit, responded to scores of heavily baited questions by her in-laws' attorney.
Richard Howell, one of Gerald and Mildred Harris' two attorneys, said Clara Harris was "hiding" behind the Fifth Amendment. Howell pressed her repeatedly to admit that she had intentionally killed her husband, David Harris, after learning that he was having an affair.
About 15 minutes later, Clara Harris left the witness stand, and attorneys for her husband's parents rested their case.
Clara Harris' attorney, Dean Blumrosen, told the court before her testimony that he had advised her to answer no questions, regardless of their subject, to ensure she avoided damaging her chances at overturning the murder conviction. Answering any questions, could constitute a waiver of her rights and lead to her being required to answer others, Blumrosen said.
As a result, Clara Harris declined to answer questions about her husband's killing, her motives and her relationship with her former in-laws, Gerald and Mildred Harris.
Clara Harris' attorneys showed a short video deposition by another former in-law, Barbara Twigg Harris. They also presented brief testimony from the woman caring for Clara Harris' twin sons before resting their case as well.
Jurors were then sent home for the day. The trial is set to resume Wednesday morning with closing arguments from both sides.
Clara Harris ran over David Harris with her Mercedes-Benz several times in July 2002 in the parking lot of the suburban Houston hotel where she had confronted him and his mistress several minutes earlier. She was convicted of murder in February 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Although Gerald and Mildred Harris supported Clara Harris throughout her 2003 murder trial -- even lending her $70,000 for her legal bills -- attorneys for both sides told jurors the relationship deteriorated quickly after her conviction.
Gerald and Mildred Harris, 77 and 73 respectively, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Clara Harris in July 2004, seeking compensation for loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and for loss of their son's financial assistance in their old age.
Howell said the falling out was primarily over custody issues surrounding Clara and David Harris' twin sons.
Blumrosen said the deterioration came after his client complained that the Harrises were allowing their eldest son, Gerald Harris Jr., to carry on an extramarital affair in full view of the twins at their home.
Gerald Harris testified for several hours Tuesday that the lawsuit against his former daughter-in-law had nothing to do with forgiveness or revenge, but was about compensating him and his wife for their loss and for ensuring they would be taken care of financially in their later years, as their son had promised.
Asked whether he had forgiven Clara Harris for his son's death, Gerald Harris said: "That's a very difficult question to answer . . . I do not feel that she has ever told us, or said to us, 'I killed David.' . . . And without repentance, I don't see forgiveness."
Story courtesy of the Associated Press and KTRK-Houston.