Font size: +

Missing evidence halts man's trial;

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), SECTION: Pg. A-1
BYLINE: Teresa Stepzinski

Camden County, FL

T-shirt murder suspect had on at time of his arrest was seized, but appears gone

WOODBINE - A judge abruptly recessed Larry Nathaniel Harris Sr.'s double murder trial Wednesday afternoon after learning a potentially key piece of prosecution evidence is missing.

Harris, 46, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of murdering Commie Lee Spead Jr. and Jerry Lewis Williams.

Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison sent the jury home for the day at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, telling them to return at 9:30 a.m. today. Harrison said "the state has requested a recess to locate another witness."

It was a sudden end to the second day of Harris' trial in the June 16, 2008, double slaying.

About 15 minutes earlier Wednesday, Harrison sent the jury out of the courtroom as Harris' lawyers Charles Nester and Newell Hamilton asked for a mistrial because a white T-shirt that Harris was wearing when booked into the Camden County jail apparently has been lost.

On Tuesday, county jail administrator Chuck Byerly testified he was present when Harris was booked and saw the clothes he was wearing. The clothes were put into sealed evidence bags and turned over to Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and sent to the crime lab for analysis, he testified.

Prosecutors later showed jurors a videotape of Harris being booked. The tape clearly showed Harris wearing a white T-shirt with short sleeves, black shorts, a red baseball cap and Air Jordan shoes.

Wednesday afternoon, GBI forensic biologist Kristen O'Malley-Fripp unsealed two evidence bags containing Harris clothes and shoes taken from him at the jail.

The white T-shirt wasn't in either bag. Instead, a white sleeveless undershirt was there with black shorts, red cap and shoes matching those shown on the videotape of Harris' booking.

Reading the handwriting on the bags, O'Malley-Fripp, who also is the assistant lab manager, testified they were said to contain "clothing worn by Larry Harris when arrested."


The disappearance of the T-shirt, Hamilton told Harrison, is the latest in a "progression of problems" threatening Harris' right to a fair trial.

"You have items sent to the crime lab that were not on Larry Harris at the time he was arrested," Hamilton said of the sleeveless T-shirt. "There is a distinct possibility these are not the same items."

Hamilton then asked Harrison to declare a mistrial, or at the very least throw out some evidence: Harris clothing and DNA results showing Spead's blood was on the black shorts that prosecutors assert Harris was wearing when the two men were killed.

Hamilton, however, noted what the jury has already seen and heard cannot be undone.

Assistant District Attorney Rocky Bridges told the court that the situation could be remedied.

"I believe we will be able to resolve this. I ask the court to recess until the morning while we try to locate a witness," Bridges said.

"Bearing in mind this is a serious case ... I do not want to grant a mistrial. I will grant the state time to locate its witness," Harrison said.

Cousins who worked together laying tile, Spead, 48, and Williams, 52, were sitting dead, side-by-side, inside Spead's white Cadillac Escalade when sheriff's deputies found it parked June 16, 2008, beside isolated Vacuna Road near Kingsland. Both died of single gunshots to the backs of their heads.

Hamilton has acknowledged to the jury that Harris was present when the two men were killed, but was there only to buy crack.

Teresa Stepzinski: (912) 264-0405

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
International Association for Property and Evidence
"Law Enforcement Serving the Needs of Law Enforcement"
Bunnell Police Miscues Helping To Lessen Case Agai...
DA slams APD evidence conduct

Search IAPE

Blotter - Latest News

This login form is for IAPE Staff ONLY!