Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
Being convicted of murder might make some people rethink their trial strategy, but that didn’t seem to be the case for Christopher Harrell Tuesday morning. Just hours after being convicted of murder in the 2017 death of Michael Lindsey, Harrell took the stand in his sentencing hearing and once again refused to cooperate.
Though he didn’t yell, Harrell’s tone and inflection seemed to show irritation, especially when he spoke to Britton Brooks, the prosecutor who had secured that murder conviction.
Harrell was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for the murder of Lindsey.
Lindsey’s body was found buried under household items at a home on West Gandy in Denison on Oct. 1, 2017. Harrell had been house sitting in the home for about a month before the body was discovered. After not hearing from her father for several days, Lindsey’s daughter filed a missing person report on him and stopped a truck that looked like Lindsey’s in Sherman after that missing person’s report was filed. When the officer asked the driver for identification, the driver produced Lindsey’s drivers license and other identification. He answered questions as though he were, in fact, Lindsey. When the officer reported those answers to Lindsey’s daughter, she knew there was something very wrong. The driver had said he had a fight with his sister and would contact family when he was ready.
Lindsey, his daughter testified, didn’t have a sister.
Harrell would eventually be tracked to a hotel in a small town about two hours away from Grayson County. He still had Lindsey’s truck, identification, bank card and other belongings. He told officers that Lindsey was dead and then told them where to find the body.
Shortly after the conviction on Monday, Harrell stopped standing when the jury entered or left the room and continued that trend on Tuesday. He arrived at the courtroom dressed in an orange Grayson County Jail inmate uniform. When Judge Larry Phillips asked why Harrell wasn’t in the same street clothes he had worn all week last week, Harrell responded that given the conviction, he didn’t see any need to continue to dress in what he called a “monkey suit.” He would later take the stand and tell the jury he is more comfortable in the jail uniform.
He also told them that he wasn’t mad that they had convicted him, though he continued to argue with prosecutors when they said he had murdered Lindsey.
“I hold no malice for what you decided,” Harrell told jurors. “Given the circumstances, I might have done the same thing.”
He also said he was sorry for what happened to Michael Lindsey, though Harrell continued to deny killing the man.
“I am sorry I ever invited him over to Miss Moon’s,” he said. He also apologized for running away instead of staying to face the music in the case.
“I really don’t care what you all do. I am much more relieved today” than he had been in the last two years, he said.
He said he has been a square peg his whole life and he has had to try to fit in the round hole for as long as he has lived and it has been tiring.
After deciding to testify in the sentencing hearing, Harrell started preaching out of the book of Genesis for a bit, Harrell asked of the jury, “If I am evil, what are you?”
Later he would mouth at them as he passed by them on his way back to seat. Some people in the courtroom said Harrell asked the jurors to give him 99 years in prison.
Grayson County District Attorney Britton Brooks asked them to give him life in prison. He pointed out the negative way Harrell interacted with jailers and the laundry list of crimes for which he had been convicted. At one point, Brooks asked Harrell to tell him why he had killed Lindsey.
“When we get to the other side … you’ll understand,” Harrell replied.
“I don’t know that we will be in the same place,” Brooks responded.
Tim Brown, who represented Harrell in the case, urged the jury to see Harrell as a human being who holds to his own personal beliefs. He said some of what they were seeing from Harrell was righteous indignation because Harrell still believes himself to be innocent of killing Lindsey. And Brown reminded them, his client was 57 years old when he was convicted of that crime and won’t be allowed a chance at parole until he serves half of whatever sentence they handed down.
After all of the sentences and the victim impact statements, Brooks said, “I am incredibly grateful for the life sentence outcome of this case. Of all of the killers I have prosecuted, Harrell is the most violent and evil I have seen in my career.”
He said he spoke with the jury after the trial and realized that their quick verdicts were meant to tell Harrell that they knew, “he was a murderer with no remorse and a danger to society.”
Brooks said Harrell was not the first defendant to yell and preach at him from the witness stand and he likely won’t be the last.
“Now he can go preach to the other inmates in prison for the rest of his life,” Brooks added.
Jerrie Whiteley is the criminal justice editor for the Herald Democrat. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jlwhiteley.