Clara Harris' Murder Trial Set

Pretrial Hearing Set For November

HOUSTON - The dentist accused of running down and killing her husband, an orthodontist, likely will be indicted next month and will go to trial Jan. 21, lawyers said Friday.

Defendant Clara Harris, who darkened her hair color and sat in the spectators' gallery while attorneys set the case schedule in state District Judge Carol G. Davies' chambers, did not speak in court or to reporters afterward.

Lead defense attorney George Parnham said he wasn't surprised that prosecutor Mia Magness said it could take weeks for her office to present its case to a grand jury, starting some time next week.

"I think it is a complicated facts situation," Parnham said. "I believe they want to make darn certain that a presentation of all the factors that are accurate ... be made to the grand jury."

For example, Parnham said, initial reports indicated Harris parked atop the mortally injured David Lynn Harris, 44, and that information was used in an initial hearing. Authorities later said the car was not on top of him.

"It seemed to be a callous act on her part, and we know that's not true," Parnham said. "I think the prosecutor's office, in all fairness, wants to make sure an accurate representation is made."

Clara Harris, 44 is charged with killing her husband after suspecting him of cheating on her.

The incident happened the night of July 24 at the Hilton Nasa Clear Lake, Nasa Road 1, in Nassau Bay.

She remains free on a $30,000 bond. But as a condition of her freedom, the judge ordered her not to have any contact with the woman her husband was allegedly having an affair with, or to come within 200 feet of the woman's home or office.

Earlier that day, Clara Harris had hired a private investigation agency to trail her husband, whom she suspected of having an affair with another woman. An investigator taped his death.

Parnham cannot see the videotape or other prosecution evidence until a grand jury hands up an indictment, which is expected by mid-September. Parnham has a hunch the tape might actually help his client based on witness interviews, but he declined to say how.

"I believe if the tape is clear ... then it could only support my belief what happened in that parking lot," Parnham said, without elaborating except to call his suspicion "beneficial" to Clara Harris.

Magness said she is hopeful Clara Harris will be indicted by the end of next month. Motions are due Nov. 8 and a pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 18. Both sides said they expect the case to stay on schedule.

Clara Harris initially told reporters her husband's death was "an accident" and has not spoken publicly since. Parnham said family of the dead man's husband has been supportive of his client.

"His family is sticking with her. They love her," Parnham said. "It says volumes about how Mr. and Mrs. Harris have lived their lives, how much family means to them."

Clara Harris is busy trying to reconstruct her life with her twin 3-year-old sons, complete with the task of explaining to them what happened to their father, Parnham said.

Earlier this month, a federal judge froze the estate of David Harris until it reaches probate court to prevent Clara Harris from using it to defend herself against murder charges or profiting from her husband's death.

Records filed in Galveston County probate court show the Harrises shared assets, including their suburban Houston mansion, six Houston-area dental offices, a condominium in Colorado and the 2001 Mercedes she allegedly used to run him down.

David Harris' ex-wife, Debra Shank, sought the asset freeze on behalf of their 16-year-old daughter, Lindsey, and Harris' 3-year-old twin sons from his second marriage to Clara Harris.

Shank alleged in court papers that the teenager was in the Mercedes with Clara Harris after her stepmother confronted David Harris and one of his employees, Gail Bridges, in the hotel.

Previous Stories:

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.