HOUSTON – A jury decided the punishment Tuesday for the man convicted of killing a Bellaire police officer and an innocent bystander in 2012. Harlem Harold Lewis III was sentenced to death. The verdict was returned after about 12 hours of deliberation.
Twelve jurors - nine men and three women - unanimously agreed that Lewis should pay with his own life for shooting and killing Cpl. Jimmie Norman, 53, and Maaco shop owner Terry Taylor, 66, at the end of a police chase on Christmas Eve.
Lewis stood with his head hung low, as his attorney kept a hand on his left shoulder. Before the jury was polled about its decision, his attorney gave him a pat, then the two sat down.
One by one, the jurors were polled, and one by one, they answered yes. They determined Harlem Lewis would be a continuing threat to society, and there was no mitigating evidence to warrant mercy.
Judge Mark Kent Ellis, 351 District Court, then told Lewis to stand to learn his fate. "Mr. Lewis, the jury having found you guilty of capital murder and having answered the question such that your punishment shall be death, do you have anything to say before I sentence you?" Judge Ellis asked.
Lewis shook his head once, indicating no.
"It is my order that you be delivered by the sheriff of Harris County to the director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division, there to be confined until the date of your execution which is contingent upon the affirmance of your case upon appeal. See the bailiff," Ellis said.
One of Lewis attorneys said Lewis appeared to be stunned by the verdict.
"He doubled over a little bit and I straightened up. He had collapsed into the chair but I was holding him so he didn't fall," Patrick McCann told reporters afterward.
Family members of Norman and Taylor gave impact statements before Lewis was led from the courtroom.
Norman's daughter, Dallas, now herself a police officer with Deer Park P.D., told Lewis her family still grieves the loss of her father.
"You are an evil person and you are a coward," she said to Lewis.
Taylor's widow addressed Lewis next, telling him three families were now grieving, the victims' and his own. Judith Taylor described how she and her husband were looking forward to travel after retirement in a just a few years.
"You were brought up better than this," she said to Lewis. "It was your choice to go into crime. Now you're going to have to face the consequences of those choices. I feel really sorry for you because I haven't seen any remorse from you."
Lewis said nothing to either of the women.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson talked with jurors after the punishment was handed down. She said they tried to find anything redeeming about Lewis that might warrant a lesser sentence of life in prison, but found none.
"His crime was horrific, and he showed no remorse throughout the trial, I think the death penalty was absolutely correct punishment for him," Anderson said.
Outside the courtroom, Lewis' uncle, Charlie Johnson, spoke on behalf of Lewis' family.
"I know he was sorry. I know he was sorry. I'll tell you that," Johnson said.
Jurors made their decision after hearing lengthy testimony about the events that led up to the deadly shooting on Christmas Eve almost two years ago.
Norman was a 24-year police veteran with the Bellaire Police Department. He attempted to pull over the car Lewis was driving after running a computer check on the license plate, and learning a warrant had been issued for insufficient insurance.
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. Taylor knew Norman and came out to try to assist him. As the officer was trying to pull Lewis from his car, Lewis shot him. He then aimed the gun at Taylor, shooting and killing him also.
Prosecutors 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.
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 did not deny Lewis pulled the trigger, but said Lewis did not deserve the death penalty because he 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.
Lewis' sentence will automatically be appealed.