HOUSTON - Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is personally leading the prosecution team trying to convict 23-year-old Harlem Lewis of capital murder for the 2012 shooting of a Bellaire police officer.
In opening arguments Monday morning, Anderson told jurors that Lewis "calmly and deliberately executed Corporal Jimmie Norman, and Terry Taylor," a business owner who was trying to assist Norman in subduing Lewis after a chase through Bellaire on December 24, 2012.
Norman was a 24-year police veteran with the Bellaire Police Department. He attempted to pull over the car Lewis was driving on Christmas Eve morning in 2012 after running a computer check on the license plate, and learning a warrant had been issued for insufficient insurance.
According to prosecutors, Lewis didn't stop after Norman turned on his emergency lights, and kept going after the officer verbally ordered him to pull over.
According to fellow Bellaire officer Sergio Salinas, Lewis led Norman on a chase through residential streets until side-swiping a truck driven by Sylvan Romera Amaya. Amaya testified he also began chasing Lewis at that point to get his license and insurance information.
Lewis continued on in his damaged car for a few blocks before pulling into the parking lot of the Maaco body shop owned by Terry Taylor. Taylor knew Norman, and came out to try to assist him. As the officer was trying to pull Lewis from his car, Anderson told jurors the dash cam in Norman's patrol car recorded what happened next.
"You hear a boom and you see Corporal Norman fly back with his arms spread, and he hits the pavement," Anderson said. "And before Terry Taylor can do anything but cringe the defendant is up with a gun in his hand and shoots Terry Taylor in the throat."
Anderson said Lewis then turned to shoot Amaya who was also standing near his car, but Amaya dove to the ground after hearing the first shot.
"It happened in just a few seconds but I threw myself to the ground," he told jurors through an interpreter.
After the shooting, Lewis fled on foot, but was shot and wounded and then captured by Bellaire officers who had come to assist Norman.
Defense attorney Tyrone Moncriffe doesn't deny Lewis pulled the trigger, but is arguing for life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty.
"We don't believe from this table that it was capital murder," said Moncriffe.
He told jurors Lewis was frightened and unsure why Norman was trying to pull him over. He said Lewis was distrustful of police officers because he had been stopped repeatedly by police when driving through "certain areas," and had his car impounded. His parents had instructed him to call them if police tried to stop him again.
He was driving his girlfriend's car the day of the shooting and was passing through Bellaire after dropping a friend off at work. Moncriffe said Lewis ran from the officer to prevent the car from being impounded. He said Lewis was surprised when Norman got into the car with him.
"They are struggling in the car, and Harlem Lewis believed this officer was trying to hurt him," Moncriffe said.
The chase and the murders were recorded on Norman's dash camera. That video is expected to be played for the jury Tuesday.
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