BLOOMINGTON — Jurors in the Chris Harris murder trial return Friday morning to the Peoria County Courthouse to resume their deliberations.
The jury considered the case for two hours late Thursday afternoon before being sent home for the night.
Earlier in the day, they heard closing arguments from lawyers on both sides of the murder case.
A prosecutor described the scene inside the Rick Gee home the night he and four members of his family were killed was “an all-out slaughter,” committed by Harris, who is charged with first-degree murder in the September 2009 beating deaths of Rick and Ruth Gee and their children -- Justina Constant, 16, Dillen Constant, 14, and Austin Gee, 11, and the attempted murder of Tabitha Gee, a toddler who survived the attack.
Illinois Assistant Attorney General Mike Atterberry called Harris’ self-defense claim, that he was forced to kill Dillen Constant after he interrupted the teen killing the family, “unbelievable and laughable.” The story from the 34-year-old Armington suspect that he was engaged in a bloody battle with Dillen defies logic, said the prosecutor, who used several grisly crime scene photos to illustrate his lengthy closing remarks.
“It looks like a one-sided slaughter. There was no fight,” Atterberry said of the blood-spattered images.
The testimony of Harris' brother, Jason Harris, who waited outside the Gee home during the incident, provides a more credible version of the truth, Atterberry suggested.
Jason Harris told police he was in the driveway of the home on Sept. 21, 2009, while his brother went inside armed with a tire iron to talk to Justina. The state has implied that Chris Harris was looking for sex with the girl as well marijuana from Rick Gee.
The blood-stained trail left by Dillen, starting near the porch outside the home where he was allegedly struck by Chris Harris, and continuing on blood-smeared walls and pools on the floor, points to a heroic effort by the youth to save his family, said Atterberry.
Harris “delivered a deadly coup de grace on all the victims” that included at least 155 swings delivered with the tire iron, the prosecutor said of the head injuries that killed the five victims.
But defense lawyer Dan Fultz asked jurors to consider Jason Harris’ plea deal when judging his the credibility.
“Jason Harris is being paid to come in here and tell you Chris Harris confessed to him,” said Fultz, noting that Jason Harris has been convicted of perjury in an unrelated Logan County case.
Jason Harris agreed to a 20-year prison term in exchange for his testimony against his brother and his guilty plea to concealment of a homicide, drug sales and obstruction of justice for initially lying to police.
The fact that Chris had only a small blister on his hand is unreasonable if he was involved in the brutal battle suggested by Dillen and Rick Gee’s injuries, said Fultz.
Some of the forensic test results also do not favor the state’s case, said Fultz, including the discovery that Dillen’s DNA was under Rick Gee’s fingernails. “There’s your reasonable doubt,” Fultz told the jury in his 90-minute presentation.
Fultz was forthright in his description of his client as a “beer-drinking, dope-smoking guy” who was engaged in those habits — along with a small amount of cocaine — the night of the murders. Harris’ decision to destroy evidence, lie to police and go on with his life with no apparent concern for the five people who lay dead in the home was termed “unfathomable” by his lawyer.
Two photos of a smiling Harris with a former girlfriend following a rendezvous in Clinton the day after the slayings was displayed by prosecutors as proof of the defendant’s callous nature.
Among the possible verdicts for the jury is a second-degree murder charge involving the alleged self-defense killing of Dillen. The other charges are first-degree murder involving all five victims, armed robbery and home invasion and the attempted murder of Tabitha.
This story will be updated.