High-profile murder trial coming here


By Patsy Nicosia

A Tioga County man convicted twice of murdering his wife will face his third murder trial in 12 years in Schoharie County.
A decision last week by a mid-level state appeals court in Albany is sending the trial of once-prominent Owego auto dealer Calvin Harris, 52, to Schoharie.
Harris was first convicted in 2007 of murdering his estranged wife, Michele Harris, who disappeared the night of September 11, 2001.
That conviction, however, was overturned after a local farmer came forward after the verdict to say he'd seen Ms. Harris with an unidentified man hours after the prosecution said Harris had killed her.
A new trial was ordered, but Harris' second conviction in 2009 was overturned by New York's highest court-the state Court of Appeals-in October 2012, due to apparent trial errors and yet a third trial was ordered.
The move to Schoharie follows arguments from Harris' defense lawyers that the extensive publicity the case has brought in Tioga County has made it impossible to pick a fair jury there.
The Tioga County District Attorney's office opposes the move.
"While we are disappointed that the third trial of Calvin Harris will not be held in the community where the tragedy involving Michele Harris occurred, in accordance with the decision from the Appellate Division, the District Attorney's Office will continue to pursue the prosecution vigorously and seek a just result on behalf of the citizens of Tioga County," said DA Kirk Martin, elected last November, in a written statement.
According to prosecutors, Michele Harris, then 35, was struck with an object at least twice in her Town of Spencer kitchen before her body was dragged to the garage, where she died.
Neither a weapon or her body, however, have ever been found.
Harris is now free on bail, raising the couple's four children.
No timetable has been set for the local trial, which is likely to be expensive.
"It happens occasionally," said Schoharie County Attorney Mike West of the change of venue, "but it's not something we go looking for. It's not something that we relish."
Mr. West said he expects Tioga County will reimburse Schoharie County for the costs associated with the trial, which will use the local court and rely on local jurors once they move in and set up shop.
Typically, he said, someone like Harris would be housed in the local jail.
Since Hurricane Irene, however, that's been the Albany County Jail, which means Schoharie County will be responsible for transporting Harris during his trial, which is expected to take about three weeks.
"Logistically, it's a lot," Mr. West said.