HOUSTON -- The day after jurors watched the police dash cam video that showed the shooting deaths of a Bellaire police officer and an innocent bystander, prosecutors Wednesday methodically presented piece after piece of forensic evidence as they carefully built their death penalty case against Harlem Harold Lewis III.
Prosecutors showed jurors dozens of crime scene photographs, the suspect’s bloodied .380 caliber handgun with three bullets still in it and the hammer cocked and ready fire, 23 shell casings from police bullets fired during the foot pursuit, and the suspect’s bloody handprints on the outside walls of a strip mall left behind as he tried to make his escape.
Lewis shot and killed Bellaire Police Corporal Jimmie Norman on December 24, 2012 at the end of a chase that began as a traffic stop. Jurors watched the officer’s dash cam video that shows one of two hit-and-run accidents the suspect caused during the pursuit.
And at the end of that video the officer’s own dash camera captured his final moments. After a more than 40 second struggle trying to pull Lewis from his heavily damaged car in the parking lot of an auto repair business where the chase ended, Lewis fires a single shot hitting the officer in the face. Lewis then stands over the officers’ body and fires another shot at Terry Taylor, 66, the owner of the auto body shop who had rushed outside his store to help the officer. Taylor was pronounced dead where he fell.
Norman was pronounced dead minutes later at a Houston hospital. Norman never pulled his handgun during the fatal struggle.
Lewis was shot and injured in a shootout with other officers who arrived on the scene next.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is leading the prosecution herself. She has declined public comment until the case is over. But Lewis’ defense team says it will try to convince the jury that the shocking and graphic video shows, not a hardened criminal looking for police to kill, but a frightened then 21-year-old man who was cornered and fired out of fear.
“That’s who he is and that’s why this is, that wasting a spot on death row for him is a terrific waste of resources and time. And frankly there’s enough death in this,” said defense attorney Patrick McCann. “If the death penalty is supposed to be for the worst of the worst, Harlem Lewis isn’t it. And he hasn’t been it. And nothing the state can do to try to make him into that is going to change that realistically.”
Family members of both victims have sat through every difficult moment of the first three days of the capital murder trial, watching the graphic evidence presented in court.
The prosecution is expected to present its final witnesses on Thursday. Then the defense will begin its attempt to convince the jury of 9 men and 3 women that Lewis should get life in prison without parole and not death row.