On Thursday, a state appellate court denied Calvin Harris’ appeal of a 2009 guilty verdict of second-degree murder of his estranged wife, Michele Harris, who was last seen the evening of Sept. 11, 2001.
Following two trials, and years of speculation, the 50-year old Tioga County, N.Y. businessman was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
During a Jan. 10 hearing in Albany, Harris’ attorneys asked the court’s appellate division to have the conviction reversed, or to order a new trial. By a slim margin of 3-1, the state appellate court affirmed the murder conviction.
The 43-page document released by the appellate court on Thursday included a lengthy dissenting opinion from Justice Bernard J. Malone Jr., who said that Harris’ indictment should be reversed and dismissed, and at the least, Harris should get a new trial due to insufficient evidence.
Upon the release of the decision, Harris’ attorney, William Easton of Rochester, N.Y., expressed his disappointment, and was planning to use the court’s dissention to further his appeal.
“We’re disappointed in the majority’s decision,” said Easton on Thursday. “We take note of the strong dissent and we plan to seek an appeal to the Court of Appeals–the state’s highest court.”
Tioga County District Attorney Gerald Keene, who prosecuted Calvin Harris, did not respond to a call requesting comment on the appeals decision.
Appellate Court Justices Thomas E. Mercure, Edward O. Spain and Leslie E. Stein on Thursday affirmed Harris’ conviction, on the grounds that “although there is no direct evidence, the People demonstrated defendant’s guilt through circumstantial proof of motive, intent, opportunity and consciousness of guilt, as well as evidence of the victim’s sudden disappearance and her spattered blood in the garage and kitchen in the family home.”
In Malone’s dissenting opinion, he argued that “the evidence is legally insufficient to prove that defendant killed Harris, and that it is also insufficient to prove that he did so intentionally, both of which the People were required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Although I believe the proper remedy here would be a reversal and dismissal of the indictment due to the legal insufficiency of the evidence, considering both the many pretrial and trial errors that deprived defendant of his right to a fair trial, at the very least, defendant should receive a new trial,” Malone concluded.
Harris’ attorney plans to utilize Malone’s dissention to take the appeal to a higher court, the Court of Appeals.
Following a lengthy trial, Calvin Harris was convicted in 2007 of murder in the second degree for killing his wife, Michele Harris, who was last seen on September 11, 2001. Neither the victim’s body nor any murder weapon has ever been found.
Within hours after the verdict, an individual, Kevin Tubbs, came forward alleging that he had information relevant to the victim’s disappearance. Based on this testimony, a motion to set aside the verdict was granted, and a new trial ordered.
Following the second trial in 2009, Calvin Harris was again found guilty of murder in the second degree. County Court denied his subsequent motion to set aside the verdict, and sentenced him to a prison term of 25 years to life.
Harris is serving out this sentence at the Auburn Correctional Facility.