TWICE CONVICTED OF MURDERING HIS WIFE — WITH BOTH CASES THROWN OUT ON APPEALS — A WEALTHY NEW YORK BUSINESSMAN SPEAKS FOR THE FIRST TIME BEFORE FACING A THIRD MURDER TRIAL ON “48 HOURS: THE TRIALS OF CAL HARRIS,” MONDAY JUNE 9
(L-R): Michele and Cal Harris; Harris and Erin Moriarty.
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Wealthy New York businessman Cal Harris’ estranged wife Michele disappeared during the night of Sept. 11, 2001, while most of the world was focused on the terrorist attacks earlier that day. Since then, Harris has been tried and convicted twice of murdering Michele, with both cases since overturned on appeal.
Now facing a third murder trial for Michele’s death, Harris sits for his first-ever television interview and talks with 48 HOURS’ Erin Moriarty in “The Trials of Cal Harris” to be broadcast Monday, June 9 (10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
“I feel like I'm being kidnapped in broad daylight in front of my kids, in front of everyone, and no one can do anything about it,” Harris tells Moriarty. “And now we're to a point where I have to solve this case… in order to make sure that I stay here this fall with my kids.”
The disappearance of Michele Harris has been the focus of investigations and trials for the past 13 years. Michele and Cal were nearing the end of a bitter divorce, though living in the same house in Tioga County, New York, when she vanished after leaving a boyfriend’s house.
In 2005, without finding a body or a murder weapon, police arrested Cal Harris for his wife’s murder. Investigators felt they had a good circumstantial case buoyed by tiny drops of blood found in the Harris’ home. Harris was tried in 2007 and convicted of second-degree murder. But then, while awaiting sentencing, a new witness emerged and the conviction was overturned. He was tried again in 2009, with the jury reaching the same verdict but that case was overturned on appeal, too. This fall, Harris will go to trial for a third time.
Prosecutors have argued Harris killed his soon-to-be ex-wife to protect his family’s wealth, while his defense team maintains police never looked closely enough at other potential suspects, including some of the men in Michele’s life at the time.
“This has been such a roller coaster,” Harris tells Moriarty, who has been covering the story for seven years. “I'm getting ripped away: I come home, I get ripped away, I come home, I get ripped away, I come home.”
Very few things are worse than going to prison, Harris adds. “You lose your freedom, lose your children, lose everything. It’s a horrible, horrible, horrible experience,” he says.
Not everyone believes Harris is innocent, however.
“He shouldn’t be out on the street,” says Greg Taylor, Michele’s brother. “He should be in a jail cell someplace and not having an enjoyable life out there.”
“Twenty four people totally agreed that he was guilty,” says Shannon Taylor, Greg’s wife,’ “You cannot get two people to agree on what color your hair is.”
Moriarty also speaks with Harris’ four children, who talk for the first time about the strain this has had on their family. “He didn't do it, and I want everyone to know that he didn't do,” says daughter Cayla Harris.
Tanner Harris says he doesn’t like knowing his father could go away again. “I want him here with me, 'cause it's not fair to him to be accused of this,” Tanner says. “And people just don't know the real him, and I just want him back and safe with us.”
Harris’ new defense team is determined to use the third trial to clear his name. Attorney Bruce Barket says Harris has been “wrongly accused” and “wrongly prosecuted,” and vows Harris had nothing to do with Michele’s disappearance. So what will be different in court this time around? “Come and watch, I promise it won’t be boring,” Barket says.
“48 HOURS: The Trials of Cal Harris” is produced by Lisa Freed and Ruth Chenetz. Al Briganti is the executive editor. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.
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Richard Huff 212-975-3328 firstname.lastname@example.org