Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
Jurors took under 30 minutes Monday to convict Christopher Harrell in the Sept. 2017 murder of Michael Lindsey in the 59th state district court.
Harrell, who took the stand in his own defense earlier in the day, showed no emotion as the jury convicted him of shooting his friend and smashing his head with a large rock.
The jury will start the day Tuesday with the penalty phase of the trial. The jury is expected to be able to consider a punishment range of five years to life in prison.
The verdict capped off a rather stunning day of testimony in the case. During his often rambling and far flung testimony, Harrell, who gave police a number of different stories about how Lindsey died, offered the jury a completely new one. He said a gang of motorcycle people entered the home on Gandy Street where Michael Lindsey’s lifeless body was found on Oct. 1, 2017 and demanded that Harrell and Lindsey go to an ATM to withdraw money from Lindsey’s bank account. Harrell said he could tell that at least one of those people was armed and understood the seriousness of the situation, but Lindsey didn’t.
As Harrell’s attorney Tim Brown tried to keep his client on topic, Harrell weaved a tale of returning to the home he had been house sitting at with Lindsey and the gang. He said Lindsey was in such good spirits, that the picked up a hose that went to the swimming pool and swung it around. Harrell said Lindsey ended up striking himself in the head with the metal fitting on that hose causing a huge wound. Lindsey was taken inside, Harrell said, and he tried to get his friend to be still so the wound could be treated.
From there, Harrell said, he and Lindsey eventually found themselves alone together and began an intimate act when someone from the gang started shooting at them. Harrell said he took off and hid in the attic where he waited for the gang to take what they wanted from the home he had sworn to protect. When he eventually came back down, Harrell said, he found Lindsey dead in the room where he was discovered by police a few days later. Harrell admitted to covering his friend up with a shower curtain, a table and a door.
Harrell said he was surprised to find that once he started talking to police, he went from their best witness to the primary suspect in the case.
During his testimony, Harrell admitted that he had been to prison before for forgery. He spent more than 20 years there in fact. At the end of that testimony, Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Britton Brooks prepared to ask Harrell questions about the differences in the many statements he gave to police about Lindsey’s death and the story he told on the stand. However, Harrell wasn’t having any of it.
He refused to answer any of the prosecutor’s questions. He was cautioned that he must answer their questions and still refused. With that, the jury was dismissed for lunch.
During their closing arguments in the case, the prosecution urged the jury to remember all of those conflicting statements that Harrell gave police and the fact that he was found in possession of Lindsey’s truck, identification, bank cards and the murder weapon.
Brown pointed out all of the evidence that the defense said had gone missing in the case and said the police immediately focused on Harrell as a suspect. He reminded the jury of a moment earlier in the trial when Brooks put Lindsey’s daughter on the stand and showed her a photo of her deceased father saying he had to connect the body to the crime. Brown said the body had already been identified by fingerprints and the only reason the prosecutor went through that show was to let the jury see her cry and get mad.
Brooks said none of the missing videos or photos made Harrell any less guilty of murder.
“The police did an outstanding job in a difficult case,” he said. Brooks also said Harrell knew that his time in that house on Gandy Street was coming to a close and he had already ruined his relationship with the owner by forging her signature on checks and cashing them. To get away, he needed money and transportation, Brooks said, and Lindsey had booth.
Brooks ended his time in front of the jury by telling them, “You are the barbed wire that separates the sheep from the wolves. Don’t let him walk out of here a free man.”
After the verdict, Brooks said this was the first time in the 12 years he has been prosecuting that a defendant has testified with his attorney and the refused to answer questions for the prosecution. Under normal circumstances, Brooks said, a person could be held in contempt for that and jailed but Harrell is already facing a significant prison sentence.
“The jury saw him refuse to answer my questions. That can be very difficult on a defendant’s integrity with the jury,” Brooks said. He said he was not surprised by the quick verdict after the number of scenarios the jury heard from Harrell for Lindsey’s death.