PEORIA — Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Thursday in the monthlong murder trial of Chris Harris, who is accused of the 2009 slaying of a Beason family.
Illinois Assistant Attorney General Mike Atterberry has asked for a total of three hours to argue the state’s case against Harris in closing remarks. Assisting with the state’s rebuttal argument will be Logan County State’s Attorney Jonathan Wright, who handled the case with Atterberry and Assistant Attorney General Steve Nate.
In testimony from more than 50 witnesses, the state unfolded its version of how Harris allegedly beat Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children to death with a tire iron in their home during a drug-fueled rage.
Harris, who was once married to Rick Gee’s daughter, stopped at the home on Sept. 21, 2009, with his brother, Jason Harris, in search of marijuana after several hours of drinking and drug use, prosecutors said. Jason Harris recanted his initial reports to police that his brother also was after sex with 16-year-old victim Justina Constant when he went to the home.
When the jurors begin consideration of the charges, they will have a verdict option for second-degree murder involving the death of 14-year-old Dillen Constant. The lesser murder charge is in response to Chris Harris’ claim that he killed the youth in self-defense after he walked in on the teenager’s bloody massacre of the family.
Harris’ defense lawyer Daniel Fultz said he will spend about 90 minutes making final comments to the jury. Fultz was appointed last year with Peter Naylor to handle the Harris defense.
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The state closed its case Wednesday with several teachers who said Dillen Constant was earning good grades in his special education classes in the weeks before he died. The characterizations came in contrast to defense witnesses a day earlier who cited reports of aggressive behavior by Dillen, who was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Teacher Tamara Pagel wiped away tears as recalled her time with Dillen.
“He was the kind of kid who did the ‘moonwalk’ on the way to the pencil sharpener,” said Pagel, comparing the boy’s antics to a Michael Jackson dance move.
Dillen’s participation on the school wrestling team was an inspiration to coaches, according to testimony from his coach, Alex Dawson.
“He wasn’t an aggressive wrestler. He was a good learner and a good listener,” said Dawson.
Airline flight problems kept two defense witnesses from the courtroom. Harris’ ex-wife Nicole Gee and his daughter Alyssa Harris did not make their flight from Florida and were scrapped as the final witnesses for the defense.