A Marrero man was sentenced Thursday (Dec. 1) to life in prison as a habitual offender, for a criminal history capped by his recent conviction of running over his ex-girlfriend’s 61-year-old mother with his large sports-utility vehicle on a Harvey sidewalk last year.
Earl Harris, 43, was convicted by a Jefferson Parish jury on Aug. 26 of aggravated second-degree battery. That case stems from the Sept. 15, 2015 incident in the 1100 block of Clydesbank Drive, in the Scotsdale neighborhood.
The victim, who is the grandmother of several of Harris’ children, testified during the trial that she had walked to a cousin’s home on Clydesbank Drive to borrow diapers for one of her grandchildren. She was returning to her nearby home from that errand about 11 p.m., accompanied by a friend, when she noticed the headlights and heard the engine of the SUV being driven up from behind her on the sidewalk, she testified.
Harris used the SUV to strike her before he circled around across lawns for a second strike. He ran over her on the second pass, crushing her left leg. He circled around a third time and stopped, and the victim then noticed that Harris was the driver.
“He looked over at me on the ground and smiled,” she testified during the trial.
Harris circled again a fourth time, aiming at the victim’s friend, who was not injured. The victim’s friend and a nearby resident, meanwhile, called 911.
For the conviction of aggravated second-degree battery, Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Harris on Thursday to the maximum 15 years in prison at hard labor. “I think you were lucky they didn’t charge you with attempted second-degree murder,” Judge Regan told Harris.
The court then proceeded into a multiple bill hearing, with the state seeking an enhanced sentence under the state’s habitual offender law. Four of Harris’ prior felony convictions were used:
- In 1999, Harris was convicted of distribution of cocaine, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
- In 1997, Harris was convicted of distribution of a false controlled dangerous substance, or fake cocaine, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
- In 1995, Harris was convicted of second-degree battery and was sentenced to three years in prison.
- In 1991, Harris was convicted of armed robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison.
After hearing testimony from a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office latent fingerprint examiner, Kortni Sinon, Judge Regan ruled that prosecutors met their burden in proving that Harris is the same person who was convicted of the previous crimes.
Judge Regan then vacated the 15-year sentence he gave for the aggravated second-degree battery and resentenced Harris to mandatory life sentence in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
Harris had been scheduled to be sentenced for the aggravated second-degree battery conviction in September, but the hearing was postponed to October after he told the judge in arguing a pro se motion for a new trial that his constitutional rights were violated. He alleged he was not allowed to cross-examine the victim during the trial, a request he made before his trial but one he did not revive as the victim began testifying. Harris was represented by a public defender who aggressively conducted the cross-examination.
Judge Regan denied Harris’ new-trial request and re-set the sentencing and multiple-bill hearings for Thursday. In multiple bill hearings, fingerprint experts match newly obtained prints to those obtained in the prior criminal cases. The intent is to prove that the defendant is the same person who was convicted of the previous offenses listed in the multiple bill.
On Thursday, Harris, who is 6’7” tall, refused to be fingerprinted voluntarily in court for this process, asserting that doing so would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination. So Judge Regan ordered corrections officers to escort Harris back to the parish jail to be printed. Deputies escorted him back to court peacefully shortly after for the sentencing hearing.
In August, Harris disrupted his trial in front of the jury by creating a disturbance moments after the victim began testifying against him. That led Judge Regan to grant the defense request for a mistrial. Prosecutors prevailed in having that mistrial order overturned at the state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal. The trial resumed with the victim’s testimony, and Harris was convicted the following day.
Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Beckner and Andrew DeCoste prosecuted the aggravated second-degree battery case.