The two attorneys defending Christopher Harrell against the murder charges he faces in the death of Michael Lindsey told Judge Larry Phillips Friday they don’t know yet whether their client will testify.
The conversation came as the judge released jurors early for the day after the defense wrapped up its brief questioning of some of the police officers who were on the scene the night Lindsey’s body was found in a house in the 1500 block of West Gandy on Oct. 1, 2017.
Since the rest of the defense witnesses weren’t available until Monday, Phillips said the jury got the afternoon off. He cautioned attorneys in the case to make sure they worked on the jury instructions over the weekend so they wouldn’t keep the jury waiting once the defense rests on Monday.
Whether or not Harrell testifies will affect what instructions the jury gets. Defense attorneys Tim Brown and Jeromie Oney agreed, along with Assistant District Attorney Britton Brooks, to work on having a charge close to ready when the case resumes on Monday.
So far, the defense case has rested on talking to police officers about things that can’t be found. One of those appears to be a scene log from the night officers found Lindsey at the house on Gandy Street and several missing videos of officers’ conversations about the case with various people. The police have repeatedly said the tapes are not available due to mechanical errors.
Harrell has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge he faces 59th state district court, but his attorneys have faced an uphill battle due to the many statements Harrell made to police after he was found in a motel in Mount Pleasant. Harrell had Lindsey’s truck, identification, check cards and a truck bed full of items that belonged to the woman who owned the house where Lindsey’s body was found.
In his many video recorded statements, Harrell said everything from that didn’t know what happened to Lindsey to someone shot Lindsey while Harrell was performing a sex act on Lindsey, to Harrell walked into the room as someone shot Lindsey. Harrell did tell police that he picked up a rock and either smashed Lindsey’s head or threw it at Lindsey’s head, depending on the version Harrell was telling at the time.
While listening to Harrell’s many statements, jurors also heard a thing or two that they weren’t supposed to hear. Prosecutors and defense attorneys had worked to redact the statements to skip over items that were legally excluded, but a word or so slipped by. The defense asked for a mistrial when it happened, but Phillips said he thought the error could be corrected by telling the jury to disregard that statement. Also, the woman who owned the house told jurors she used to give Harrell a ride to probation, which might lead jurors to understand that Harrell had been to prison in the past.
If Harrell elects to take the stand, none of those slips will matter because prosecutors will be allowed to question him about his past.
Earlier this week, a medical examiner testified Lindsey could have died from either or both of the gunshot wounds he suffered to the back of his arm. Those shots traveled to his lung and chest cavity where they remained until removed during the autopsy. The medical examiner also said Lindsey could have died from the blunt force trauma he sustained when struck in the head with a large rock or from a combination of those things. Texas Department of Public Safety techs said the shell casings found in the basement of the house did come from the gun found in Harrell’s possession, though they couldn’t say conclusively the bullets that were found in Harrell’s body had been fired from the gun.