sequence

No bond in Ball murders

Published 12:00am Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Westley Devone "DJ" Harris, the 22-year-old man accused of killing six family members in the Town of Rutledge a week ago, made his first appearance in court on Tuesday morning.

By state law, once a suspect is arrested, he must have an opportunity to appear before a judge to hear an explanation of the charges he is accused of, and have the opportunity to receive legal counsel.

Harris stands accused of shooting and killing six family members of his common-law wife, Janice Denise Ball, 16, some time prior to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27. The victims, Mila Ruth Ball, 65, her daughter, Joanne Ball, 35, grandsons Jerry Ball, 19, Tony Ball, 17, and John Ball, 14, and also son-in-law, Willie Halsip, 41, will be honored in a memorial service to be held at Luverne High School for the victims on Wednesday, Sept. 4, beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the gymnasium.

At Harris' request, he met with District Judge Billy King in chambers prior to coming out into the courtroom, at approximately 9:30 Tuesday morning. In chambers with Harris and King were District Attorney John Andrews, and several investigators from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and Crenshaw County Sheriff's Department.

"The judge asked Harris if he wanted to have the press present when the charges were first read to him, and he (Harris) said no," Andrews said. "It was simply a reading of the charges, and the judge making sure that Harris understood the charges brought against him."

Following this brief meeting, all moved into the main courtroom of the Crenshaw County courthouse, where Harris sat waiting for his turn to appear.

"This meeting in court this morning is for the purpose of appointing attorneys for defendants in the case of felony offenses, and for the taking of pleas in the case of misdemeanor offenses," said Judge King.

When it came time to appoint representation for Harris on the charge of six counts of capital murder, Harris approached the bench, clad in an orange jailhouse uniform, and wearing leg irons and handcuffs fastened to a waist belt.

"Mr. Harris, in your case, I am going to appoint two attorneys who I feel have the most experience of all the attorneys on the Crenshaw County Bar Association to represent you - you may at any time seek other counsel, as is your right," King said. "I am appointing Charles Kettler and Mark D. Smyth to represent you, at least for the time being, for the charges against you."

King ordered Harris to be held without bond, as requested by the State.

Harris was then taken from the courtroom, during which time he remained silent, although reporters were asking him questions about the case.

Harris was taken back to the Lowndes County Detention Facility, where he is being held on a "suicide watch" in solitary confinement.

District Attorney Andrews said he was pleased with the proceedings of the day.

"I have been thinking about the victims," Andrews said. "I've been thinking of what has happened, and that their lives are over - his (Harris) may soon be over, too."

Andrews he is saddened by the case.

"It is sad all the way around," he said. "This is the first time that I have seen Harris, but his future is not so bright - I intend to seek the death penalty in this case - I will not waiver on that."

When asked about the impact on the community, Andrews was clear.

"Everybody is affected by this," he said. "This is not what the future of a 22-year-old should be."

Andrews would not elaborate on any theories concerning other suspects involved in the case.

"The investigation in this case will be continuing," he said. "I would expect the Crenshaw County Sheriff's Department and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to continue investigating this case even beyond Grand Jury."

Regarding future hearings, Andrews said he would maintain his stance.

"I am sure that there will be a bond hearing soon, but I will continue to oppose any bond for Harris," Andrews said.

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