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