Prosecutors are asking a state judge to deny Greg Harris’ request for a new trial in the brutal 2009 stabbing death of his wife, lawyer Chiquita Tate, in her downtown Baton Rouge law office.
Harris, who is serving a 40-year prison term for manslaughter, claims in an application for post-conviction relief filed earlier this year that state District Judge Trudy White should not have presided over the case, that his 2011 trial should have been moved out of East Baton Rouge Parish and that he is innocent of the savage crime.
In a recently filed opposition to Harris’ application, Assistant District Attorney Monisa Thompson asks that his petition be dismissed without an evidentiary hearing on the matter.
Thompson uses phrases such as “bloody rampage” and “violent chaos” in noting that Harris, 44, was found guilty of stabbing the 34-year-old Tate more than 30 times inside the State National Life Building on the corner of Third and Florida streets in February 2009.
Rick Gallot, a state senator who now represents Harris, alleges in Harris’ post-conviction application that the now deceased Denard Duheart, the brother of one of Tate’s former clients, is the man responsible for Tate’s death based on witness statements he has obtained.
Thompson points out that the Duheart name was mentioned at Harris’ second-degree murder trial.
“The victim’s connection to criminals is not new evidence,” she argues in opposing Harris’ claim of actual innocence. “It was brought out at trial that Chiquita Tate defended multiple bad individuals in court because they were her clients.”
Duheart, who died in 2013, is the brother of Dearius and Denako Duheart, who once were accused in the 2007 beating and burning death of Jason Fourmy in Baton Rouge. First-degree murder charges against the two brothers and a third man were ultimately dismissed after several witnesses were separately gunned down.
Tate represented Denako Duheart in the Fourmy case. Less than two months before she was killed, Tate persuaded White to release Denako from Parish Prison because prosecutors were not ready to try him on an attempted second-degree murder charge in that case.
In the Tate case, Harris contends White should have disqualified herself from presiding over the case because, among other reasons, Tate was a student law clerk for White when she was a Baton Rouge City Court judge. White disclosed that fact prior to trial, but Harris claims his defense team — led by Lewis Unglesby— erred in failing to object and seek her recusal.
Thompson says Harris did not raise the recusal issue when he originally appealed his conviction and sentence. The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed both in 2012, and the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled against him in 2013.
In July, White recused herself from ruling on the post-conviction application that Gallot filed on Harris’ behalf in May. The Clerk of Court’s Office randomly allotted the matter to state District Judge Bonnie Jackson. There has been no ruling.
Harris also alleges in his application that he wanted to testify in his own defense but Unglesby talked him out of it.
Thompson called that claim a “self-serving argument” with no factual backing.
Tate’s body was discovered the morning of Feb. 20, 2009, after Harris called 911 and flagged down a police officer on patrol on Third Street. He told the officer he went to his wife’s building to check on her after she did not come home from work that night.
Thompson, however, argues Harris created a “ruse” by leaving messages and texts on Tate’s phones. The prosecutor says Harris also “faked frantic concern” when he flagged down police.