Harris lawyer: Logan Co. sympathies preclude fair trial

2012-12-03T18:23:00Z 2013-04-24T13:56:48Z Harris lawyer: Logan Co. sympathies preclude fair trialBy Edith Brady-Lunny | eblunny@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

LINCOLN — The sympathies Logan County residents still hold for a Beason family slain three years ago in their Beason home make it impossible for one of the men accused of their deaths to obtain a fair trial, according to a motion filed Monday by his lawyer.

Christopher Harris is asking a judge to move his April 29 murder trial outside the county where Ruth and Rick Gee and three of their children were found beaten to death in September 2009. Harris, 33, and his brother, Jason Harris, 25, both of Armington, each are charged with more than 50 counts of murder and the attempted murder of a sixth victim, a young girl who survived.

Almost half of the 450 adults surveyed for the defense in June 2011 said they believed Chris Harris is guilty, said defense lawyer Dan Fultz in his request for a change of venue. Nine out of 10 residents surveyed said they were aware of the homicides, and 20 percent of those who knew of the case were acquainted with the Gee or Harris family.

The defense team also must cope with the outpouring of support and sympathy expressed after the deaths by community members who donated to memorial funds used to cover funeral expenses and renovations of a Bea-son park in honor of the slain children, Justina Constant, Dillen Constant and Austin Gee, said Fultz.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the donors may be unwilling to give fair consideration to a defense theory that Chris Harris walked in on a bloody melee perpetrated by Dillen Constant on the family. Har-ris is claiming he killed Dillen in self-defense.

“It cannot be ignored that those contributors are likely to be deeply offended by the assertion by Christopher Harris that Dillen Constant killed his own family,” said the motion.

The wide reach of news coverage — through print, television, radio and online sources— has created an insur-mountable bias against the defendant, the defense argued.

Fultz said one option exists: “The only way to overcome the extensive coverage in this case is to transfer it to a county where exposure to such coverage has been limited, regardless of potential jurors’ assertions of impartial-ity.”

The media reports have created conversations — some based on fact, others on fiction — in the close-knit community that suffered the first quintuple homicide in its history, the defense noted.

“Many of those rumors are mean-spirited, while others are pure gossip; however, they have been repeated so often that they have taken on an air of truth in many people’s minds,” said Fultz.

Judge Thomas Harris, no relation to the defendants, set a Jan. 14 hearing on the change of venue request.

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(5) Comments

  1. Walter
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    Walter - December 04, 2012 4:25 pm
    You know what, it is supposed to be a jury of your peers, so try it in Logan County. We need to get the trial process speeded up, get the bogus testimony out of trials, have police present their evidence, and have the defense present their evidence, throw the phsycologists and bought professional testimony excluded. A trial like this ought to be able to be done in a week.
  2. Micha
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    Micha - December 04, 2012 10:49 am
    Apparently this family was totally dysfunctional.How many ex wives did Gee have???How many ex boyfriends did Ruth have??? I have this overwhelming feeling that most of this was aimed at the mother and deep resentment for the other children that were born after Dillen.Compounded with fighting to get child support for Justina and Dillen which she had the right to receive.Rick fell upon hard times and depended on selling pot to supplement his construction business.Even in today's society law abiding citizens frown on drug dealing.Harris is guilty too for going over there to buy the pot.I bet he regrets it now,because look what he walked into.
  3. Diehardfan
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    Diehardfan - December 04, 2012 8:39 am
    There we go...again...GUILTY...Until Proven...Innocent...then...still Guilty..per Public Opinion & Media....we do not know whole story.....all trials take forever...this is the American Justice system...maybe they did "walk in on tragedy"..we don't know this....YES...by all means ...move it out of Illinois...they still won't get a FAIR Trial....and No-One will understand Verdict...we have already Convicted them per Public Opinion.....Isn't Public Opinion wonderful??? PS remember Casey Anthony trial?....People were Passing Out because of Aquittal.....still...justice was served. People still believe she is Guilty...Public Opinion........
  4. Lvis
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    Lvis - December 03, 2012 8:54 pm
    too bad we can't ship this trial to Texas and let them use Texas laws
  5. beaglecat-dora
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    beaglecat-dora - December 03, 2012 8:29 pm
    3 years has been way too long! Just stop costing all of us so much money and put the guilty where they belong!!! They're getting way too much fame at the cost of nearly an entire family!
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