Jury finds Harris guilty of killing six in family

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

Jurors in the Westley Devon Harris capital murder trial deliberated a little under eight hours before finding him guilty of killing six people in August 2002.

Although one juror openly wept as the verdict was read, the jury was unanimous in its decision that Harris killed six members of then-girlfriend Janice Ball's family on Aug. 26, 2002.

"We got justice," said Coleman Ball on the steps of the Crenshaw County Courthouse following the verdict. Ball is brother to JoAnn Ball, one of those murdered by Harris during a day-long siege at the Ball family compound. Also slain were Mila Ruth Ball, 62; JoAnn’s common-law husband, Willie Hasley, 40; and their sons, Jerry Ball, 19, Tony Ball, 17, and John Ball, 14. All were killed by shotgun blasts to the head.

Janice Ball was the prosecution's key witness during the trial, although Harris' defense depicted her as a willing accomplice during the killing spree. In closing arguments on Monday, Assistant Attorney General William Dill called Ball 'noble' and Lead Prosecutor Don Valeska referred to Harris as a 'coward' numerous times while addressing the jury.

"Don't let them (the defense) pull the wool over your eyes," Valeska told the jury, referring to the defense's argument that a conspiracy by agents with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation had targeted Harris as the lone killer, even omitting evidence that suggested otherwise.

Dill exhibited enlarged and graphic photos of Harris' victims.

"These were human beings," he said. "They loved. They had dreams and aspirations. Human life is precious. And he (Harris) cared nothing for them."

Harris' family members remain convinced of Ball's involvement.

"I know it's the wrong verdict," said Ida Harris, Harris' mother. "She (Ball) knows she's involved. Janice is the key to all of this."

Harris' aunt Alice May Robinson, angered about the outcome, said "God is going to get her (Ball) for the lies she told."

Ida Harris said she was able to speak to her son following the verdict and that he remained in "good spirits."

Sentencing for Harris will start today at 8 a.m., and the prosecution is seeking the death penalty.