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Harris awaits sanity hearing
after 2nd degree murder conviction
of her children

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

January 16, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The attorney for an Oakland woman convicted today of murdering her three children by throwing them into the San Francisco Bay said she is confident her client will be committed to a state mental institution as soon as Wednesday.

The statement comes after a Superior Court jury handed down three guilty verdicts for second-degree murder in the trial of 23-year-old LaShuan Harris.

The jury had been deliberating for nine full days and had already convicted Harris of three counts of assault on a child causing death. The assault charges, handed down last week, make her eligible for 25 years to life in prison for each count, according to the district attorney's office.

Each count of second-degree murder makes Harris eligible for 15 years to life in prison.

Teresa Caffese, Harris' defense attorney, argued that she was too mentally ill to plan the cold-blooded killings of her three children, Trayshawn Harris, 6, Taronta Greely Jr., 2, and 16-month-old Joshua Greely.

After the verdict today, Caffese reiterated that Harris didn't even have the mental capacity to understand the ruling against her.

"It's very difficult for her to really understand this whole process," Caffese said. "It's been difficult for her to go through a trial, quite frankly, that, in truth, she probably doesn't understand."

Prosecutor Linda Allen, however, argued that Harris was coherent enough to admit to the Pier 7 murders on the night of Oct. 19, 2005, and that she had methodically planned the killings.

The jury, however, had not seriously considered convicting Harris of premeditated murder, according to a juror who commented on the case after the verdict was read.

Anjal Pong, a nurse, said that in the beginning of deliberations the jury was evenly split between second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

"It was very trying, long, very difficult," Pong said. "It was not an easy decision for any of us."

Pong added that Harris' mental state was a major factor in the jury's decision but that she, personally, did not feel sorry for the defendant.

"I did not consider sympathy as part of my decision," she said. Harris is scheduled to appear again Wednesday for a hearing in front of Superior Court Judge Kay Tsenin. The hearing will determine whether Harris is not guilty by reason of insanity and, therefore, will be committed to a state mental institution.

Harris waived her right to conduct the sanity hearing in front of a jury and, according to Caffese, the judge could come back with a decision as soon as tomorrow.

"The criminal justice is not the forum to treat the severely mentally ill," Caffese said. "I think we have to ask ourselves as a society whether or not we want to allow the prisons to be repositories for the mentally ill."

Allen did not comment on the trial after the verdict, but District Attorney Kamala Harris issued a statement, thanking Allen and the investigators involved in the case.

"This case was tragic for all involved," Harris said in the statement. "Three young children lost their lives, and these children deserved to have a jury hear the facts. I thank the jury for their service and careful deliberations."

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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