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Eyewitness testifies in Harris murder trial

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

November 28, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - An eyewitness and the first arriving officer both testified Monday for the prosecution in the murder trial of LaShuan Harris, who is accused of willfully throwing her three children in the San Francisco Bay.

Yashpal Singh said he was at the end of San Francisco's Pier 7 when Harris, 24, undressed her 6-year-old son, grabbed him by one foot and a leg, and then swung him over a railing into the chilly current below.

Singh said he walked away after Harris began undressing her 2-year-old son. He said the children were screaming, "No mommy, no mommy!"

"I kind of became concerned about my kids," said Singh, who had been walking in the area with his own two children. "I couldn't make up my mind, and I decided to call for help."

Singh then testified that he called 911 and waited in a nearby restaurant for the police to arrive. The first officers to arrive were Officer Michael White and his partner.

White testified that he told Singh to get into their patrol car and drove to the end of the pier. Halfway down, however, they ran into Harris, walking alone and pushing a stroller full of clothing.

According to White, when asked where her babies were, Harris responded, "They're with their father."

White, who has nine years of experience in scuba rescue in the Bay, said he checked the water after he realized the children were missing.

He said there were "white caps," the water was "very rough" and the "tide was going out at a very fast pace."

Only one child's body, that of 2-year-old Taronta Greely Jr., was discovered. Police believe Trayshawn Harris, 6, and 16-month-old Joshua Greely drowned.

Earlier Monday, both prosecution and defense delivered their opening statements to the jury.

Teresa Caffese, chief attorney for the San Francisco public defender's office, told jurors Harris has an extensive history of mental illness -- including six mandatory hospitalizations within two years -- and she received commands from God and often spoke of "spiritual warfare."

Earlier this morning, Assistant District Attorney Linda Allen told the jury that they would no doubt feel sympathy for Harris, because of her youth and history of mental illness.

But Allen also told the jury of four women and eight men they would still find that Harris was fully aware of her actions when she undressed her three children, one by one, and threw them into the Bay on the evening of Oct. 19, 2005.

"You will be asked to answer one question: which of society's laws are violated when a mother kills her children?" said Allen, who added that the murders were willful, deliberate and premeditated.

Caffese did not dispute the prosecution's claim that Harris threw the children into the Bay. She did, however, illustrate the long history of the defendant's mandatory hospitalization and family problems.

According to Caffese, Harris's problems stem from an inborn mental illness that had remained latent up until her teenage years when she was raped and beaten by Taronta Greely, the father of all three boys.

The day she killed the boys, Caffese said, Harris was in a sort of stupor as she took her children by Bay Area Rapid Transit from Oakland, where they lived at a Salvation Army shelter, to the San Francisco waterfront.

Harris fed her children and watched them play, but she never seemed to enjoy it despite a beautiful day on the Embarcadero. She walked around pacing with a "blank look" on her face, Caffese said.

Allen did not dispute the defense claim that Harris was guided by voices from God, but she did argue that Harris was lucid and aware of her surroundings as she was arrested and later interviewed by San Francisco police homicide inspectors.

"She's not so mentally ill that she didn't know what she was doing," said Allen, who added that Harris repeatedly said, "It's my life or the kids."

Allen is expected to continue her case tomorrow at 10 a.m. in department 26 in the Hall of Justice. Superior Court Judge Ksenia Tsenin is presiding over the case.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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