State finishes case on Harris

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Prosecutors rested their case against Westley Devon Harris on Thursday, the Crenshaw County man accused of the murder of six family members of his then-girlfriend Janice Ball.

The defense, which has argued since the trial's opening that Ball was a willing participant in the murders, opened its case with testimony from Crenshaw County Investigator Robin Daniels. Daniels, when asked by Defense Attorney Steve Townes if there were other suspects beside Harris, replied that it was his opinion that 'Janice Ball needed additional investigation.'

Assistant Attorney General William Dill, in cross-examination, dismissed Daniels' opinion, stating that it was Daniels' first homicide case as an investigator.

Testimony is expected to continue into next week as the defense looks to build evidence against both Ball and ABI investigators assigned to the case.

An ABI agent who interviewed Ball after the slayings described Ball's demeanor as 'shocked' during testimony on Tuesday.

Cpl. Lynn Rhodes Sutton stated that she interviewed Ball in the Lowndes County Jail on Aug. 29, 2002, just days after the murders and where Harris was being held, and at times Ball could barely be understood because of her emotional state.

"She was in shock, crying, upset. We had to pause several times during the interview because she was crying so hard," Rhodes told prosecutor, assistant attorney general William Dill.

Rhodes said she tape-recorded her and Ball's conversation and there are times when Ball's words are muffled, because of a napkin she held to her mouth, and unrecognizable.

Sutton's testimony came a day after Ball, herself, had taken the witness stand. On Saturday, Ball testified that she either saw or heard Harris shoot all six members of her family, but the defense had argued since the beginning of the trail that Ball was a willing participant in the slaughter. Defense Attorney Charlotte Tesmer attacked Ball's credibility during cross-examination, indicating that Ball had a motive to help commit the murders. Ball admitted on Monday she had wanted some of her family members dead for sexually abusing her.

Tesmer also attacked Sutton's handling of the case, alleging that she 'picked and chose' evidence during the early days of the investigation, evidence that would support the ABI's case of Harris being the lone killer. Sutton processed the Pontiac Grand Am, the car used by Harris following the murders, for evidence and Tesmer asked why Sutton chose not to include a number of unfired shotgun shells found in the trunk of the Grand Am as evidence, even though she had collected other shotgun shells found at the crime scene for inclusion.

Sutton replied that the shells in question did not fit the investigation.