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Harris gets 20 years for Mercedes murder

Jury chooses upper limit of sentencing guidelines

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Attorney Emily Munoz comforts a sobbing Clara Harris after the jury sentences her to 20 years in prison.

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A Texas jury sentenced Clara Harris to 20 years in jail and a $10,000 fine for killing her husband by running him over with her car (February 14)
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George Parnham, attorney for Clara Harris, convicted of killing her husband by running him over with her car, tell CNN's Connie Chung that his client will appeal the ruling (February 14)
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Indictment: Texas v. Harris  (FindLaw, PDF)external link

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Clara Harris was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine Friday for killing her husband in a hotel parking lot with her Mercedes-Benz.

Clara and David Harris were married on Valentine's Day. Their 11th wedding anniversary would have been Friday.

The jury began deliberating the penalty phase of Harris' murder trial about 10:30 a.m. EST Friday after closing arguments, which became a battle of tears between the defendant and prosecution.

On Thursday, jurors found Harris, 45, guilty of murder for repeatedly running over her 44-year-old orthodontist husband with her car. The crime was caught on tape by a private investigator Clara Harris had hired to document her husband's affair.

Jurors found that Harris acted with "sudden passion," which could have reduced the jurors' recommendation to probation. Instead, the jury said Harris should be fined and sentenced to prison at the upper limit of the sentencing guidelines for the special circumstance.

Harris slumped into her chair as the sentence was read.

Harris' attorney, George Parnham, had argued that the crime happened moments after an emotional and volatile confrontation between Harris, her husband and his mistress at the same hotel where the couple was married.

During his half-hour closing, Parnham also focused on Harris' twin sons and how they need their mother.

He pointed out that even David Harris' parents and brother had testified on Clara Harris' behalf.

"I think that speaks volumes to what this jury should do," Parnham said.

Prosecutor Mia Magness used her rebuttal to try to dismantle arguments for probation.

She said Harris' boys would be provided for and they would adjust and survive, "because that's what children do."

She also scoffed at Parnham's statement about keeping the boys with "the last parent they have on Earth."

"Well, she ought not to be given credit for making herself a single parent," Magness said.

She then brought up David Harris' daughter, Lindsey, and began crying as she spoke.

Lindsey Harris was the prosecution's only witness during the penalty phase of the trial. She was in the car with her stepmother when her father was killed.

The 17-year-old testified that she had tried to commit suicide four times in the months after her father's death July 24. Magness reminded jurors how Lindsey Harris had gotten her father's clothing out of the trash, where they had been thrown earlier that day, and laid the items out on her bed so she could feel like he was there.

"Your verdict will in part tell her what she went through was worth it," Magness said.

The prosecutor said it was "almost offensive" to consider that the defendant has suffered, too.

"What about the brutality and violence involved in his death," she asked, going on to describe how Harris lay "dying on the pavement ... drowning in his own blood while his daughter was watching."

The prosecutor lowered her voice to almost a whisper as she made her final points.

"Doing the right thing doesn't always feel good," she said. "And that's the position you're in right now, but I know you will do the right thing."


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