Prosecutors rest in woman's murder trial

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by By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on October 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 6:13 PM

Prosecutors rested their case Friday in the murder trial of Kwaneta Harris, who they say killed her on-again off-again lover Michael Giles, buried him under a slab in the backyard of his home, then raided his finances and hid the death through a web of lies.

Giles, a 46-year-old military retiree when he died, was killed in the summer of 2006 but his body wasn't discovered until October 2007.

Dallas County prosecutors say that Harris shot Giles in the back of the head, hired a boy and his uncle to dig a hole for what they thought was a pond, buried Giles and paid a man to pour concrete over his grave.

Authorities discovered Giles' body in the backyard of his Garland home during an investigation into mortgage fraud because his home loan wasn't being paid.

Garland police quickly looked to Harris, a 37-year-old registered nurse from Detroit, after authorities found she added her name to Giles' bank accounts and had taken more than $200,000 from his accounts and investments, according to testimony.

Harris and Giles met in the mid-1990s in England when Harris' husband and Giles were stationed there in the U.S. Air Force.

Defense attorneys Richard Franklin and Robbie McClung have tried shifting the blame for the murder to Harris' boyfriend, Deandre Knight, by characterizing him as threatening and abusive.

Franklin and McClung admit that Harris stole the money but say she did not kill Giles. She has pleaded guilty to the theft in exchange for a 30-year sentence.

Knight, 40, has been charged with theft for what prosecutors say was his role in the case. Evidence has shown that a check from Giles' account was written to him, but it bounced. Knight, who is in the Dallas County Jail, has not testified during the trial.

Since testimony began last week, prosecutors Josh Healy and Kevin Brooks have painted Harris as controlling and manipulative.

In one instance, when Giles was already dead but before his body was discovered, a financial planner testified, he met with Harris and a man "who I thought was Michael Giles" in a Detroit home. The meeting was set up to allow Harris to gain access to Giles' financial accounts.

Donald Eberly testified that he met them at the home because Harris told him Giles had been in a car accident, had a stroke and could only whisper "yes" or "no."

Eberly said the man he thought was Giles was bandaged and in a hospital bed, but signed the needed documents. He said that Harris had Giles' Texas driver's license and military identification card.

Prosecutors said in opening statements that the man in the bed was Harris' boyfriend - Knight.

Prosecutors said another example of Harris' manipulations was how she persuaded the daughter of a former cellmate to confess to Giles' slaying.

This happened after Harris had been arrested on a capital murder charge and released on bail.

The woman who falsely confessed, Erica Flores, told jurors that Harris wanted to hire her as a private investigator, and laid out her first mission as a sort of test.

Flores testified that Harris told her to confess to Giles' murder to see if the district attorney's office would then dismiss the case against Harris. Harris did not tell Flores that she was, in fact, the Kwaneta Harris accused of the murder.

Getting the charges dismissed, Harris told Flores, was part of a test by the Texas attorney general's office to see whether the district attorney's office would dismiss the case properly. Flores said Harris told her prosecutors had dismissed cases against whites, but wanted to see if they would do so for a black person.

Flores, who did not graduate from high school, testified that she never did apply for the supposed private investigator's job, but didn't think it odd that Harris had asked her to confess to a crime she did not commit.

"I just thought 'job,' " she said.

Flores said she wrote out a confession and she and Harris rehearsed 10 times what Flores was to say. "She told me what to say and how to look," Flores said.

Flores did confess to police and prosecutors, but told jurors that they did not believe her story. Flores said they began asking her about Harris, who has also been charged with impersonating a public servant.

Testimony also showed that someone called the Crime Stoppers tip line with information about the crime that would have supported Flores' version.

Prosecutors may have sealed their case on Friday when David Wells, the bail bondsman who initially paid for Harris to bond out of jail, testified that she confessed to him that she killed Giles.

Wells testified that Harris told him that she shot Giles in the back of the head during an argument.

Wells also testified that Harris asked him to remove a computer and a wig from a neighbor's car. The items were found in a neighbor's car after Wells went to prosecutors with the information.

But one aspect of the tale is scientifically provable: Giles was shot in the back of the head.

Testimony continues Monday.

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