Despite a state court commissioner’s adverse recommendation, Greg Harris is not giving up on his quest for an evidentiary hearing and ultimately a new trial in the savage 2009 stabbing death of his wife, lawyer Chiquita Tate, in her downtown Baton Rouge office.
Harris’ attorney, former state Sen. Rick Gallot, is asking that state District Judge Bonnie Jackson not follow Commissioner Quintillis Lawrence’s Feb. 17 recommendations that Harris’ bid for a new trial be denied. Harris petitioned last May for the new trial.
In October, East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors requested that Harris’ petition be rejected.
Harris, 44, of Baker, is serving a 40-year prison term for manslaughter. He was convicted in 2011. Tate, 34, was stabbed several dozen times.
Gallot argues in a March 7 court filing that Harris is an innocent man, and he claims that testing of DNA found under Tate’s fingernails will prove it. Gallot contends the man responsible for Tate’s death is Denard Duheart, the now-deceased brother of a former Tate client.
“(Harris) submits that a comparison of the DNA found under Tate’s fingernails with that of Denard Duheart will show that (Harris) did not commit the acts alleged,” Gallot states in his latest filing at the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.
Gallot has cited witness statements in alleging that Duheart, who died in 2013, is the person responsible for Tate’s slaying. Duheart’s brothers, Dearius and Denako Duheart, were once accused in the horrific beating and burning death of Jason Fourmy in Baton Rouge in 2007.
Tate represented Denako Duheart in that case. Charges against the two Duheart brothers and a third man were eventually dismissed after several witnesses were shot to death. Denako Duheart is now serving 20 years in prison for a 2011 attempted second-degree murder conviction unrelated to the Fourmy case. Dearius Duheart is serving a 14-year sentence on a 2014 gun conviction.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Tuesday the jury that found Harris guilty knew Tate was a criminal defense lawyer and that Denako Duheart was one of her clients.
“The jury obviously considered and rejected the allegation she was killed by a client, especially in light of the overwhelming evidence that Harris was the offender,” he said.
Moore also said Harris failed to comply with mandatory provisions of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure that required him to file an application for DNA testing, something he did not do.
Gallot also argues in his most recent court filing, as he did in Harris’ application for post-conviction relief last May, that state District Judge Trudy White never should have presided over Harris’ trial because Tate was a student law clerk for the judge when she was a Baton Rouge City Court judge.
Gallot alleges Harris could not and did not receive a fair trial.
White disclosed her working relationship with Tate during a 2009 bail reduction hearing in Harris’ second-degree murder case, and neither his trial attorneys nor prosecutors raised any objection to the judge staying on the case.
Gallot also claims Harris’ constitutional rights were violated when White allowed a police officer to testify about Tate’s account of a December 2007 domestic dispute between herself and Harris. The incident occurred about six weeks before Harris and Tate married in February 2008.
Tate’s body was found the morning of Feb. 20, 2009, in her State National Life Building third-floor office on the corner of Third and Florida streets. Her wallet with credit cards was found the night before in the high-crime Gardere Lane area by a passerby.
Prosecutor Prem Burns argued to the jury that Harris’ videotaped police interrogations included the “smoking gun” in the case — Harris’ admission, after some hesitation, that he was in the Gardere area the night his wife was killed. Harris told detectives he went there to buy steroids but his supplier wasn’t home.
Burns argued Harris discarded the wallet in hopes that an unsuspecting thief would used the credit cards and be blamed for the murder.
Harris’ post-conviction relief application was randomly allotted to Jackson after White disqualified herself from ruling on it. Lawrence’s recommendation is now in Jackson’s hands.