Pennsylvania triple murder convict asks jury to seek mercy

Both Harris and Giles agreed with the same tone in their analysis of Harris’ conviction – they argue that the key is institutional practices in Pennsylvania and across the country which have harmed the right to a fair trial.

Giles: “For too long there has been a broken relationship between criminal justice officials, judges, and prosecutors. A lot of the pretrial issues that defendants allege are fueled by this old toxic relationship. It still exists and it continues to hurt the fundamental fairness of our criminal justice system.”

“In the last twenty years alone, roughly 400 death row exonerations have been secured as a result of what we call the ‘source of evidence’ problem, where prosecutors and judges were unable to provide the basic tools needed to vet the truth.”

Giles also cites three components of Harris’ case which put it in a higher category: bias, the lack of physical evidence to link Harris to the crime, and his age.

Harris: “Harris’s conviction and imprisonment is not about robbery; it is not about hate. Harris’s conviction and imprisonment is about, in effect, security. I’m not talking about support or prosecution. No, it is more than that. It is about self-protection from someone who was not supposed to have been even existent as a threat. The reality is, and I hope it’s clear to the seven women and men on the jury, they had to choose between a dangerous criminal and a 13-year-old boy, but regardless of my subjective assessment of the outcome, I’m left with the sobering reality that in the last twenty years, if you’re a nonviolent, majority minority who represents one percent of the population, statistically you’re more likely to have your life stopped by the police than by an intruder, or as the Commonwealth asserts it, by a crime, and that is not how we create a safe and fair society. I cannot, and do not, understand how they could have been so sure that a 13-year-old boy should serve 25 to life when he never committed a violent crime.”

Harris is seeking his freedom on the grounds that even though he was a victim of a crime, he also is a victim of years of discrimination and unfairness by the system. The Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit in response.

Harris’ defense lawyers are adamant that Harris’s case is more than about money.

Harris: “I have the great fortune to get up on a platform and ask you for help. The bail fund exists, however the challenges are great and every time you go out you are more a prisoner in your own community than you are a free man. But if the sheriff picks you up, I will tell you it’s a great moment, because you can actually demonstrate for the world, all of the hardships, and all of the discrimination, that you’ve gone through and are still going through and with my experience of the last six years of doing this, I’ve never ever seen a trial like this, and I really hope it sends a message.”

Harris’s family also made a point of highlighting that Harris still has a lot of hope despite this loss.

Gregory Harris: “Am I angry that he was imprisoned? No. Am I angry that this conviction was based on circumstantial evidence? No. I am, I’m not angry. I understand that this is a complicated system and I understand this trial was subject to a lot of rumors and a lot of innuendo. I’m not angry that I was treated unfairly. I’m angry that there is a lot more work to do. I’m angry that this happened to me. I will never forget these things, but at the same time I hope that the country and my situation will resonate. And the hope is that this becomes more of a base for change because I’m tired of people failing to get his rights as a child growing up. People fail to recognize that when a child is targeted, when children are not believed, they can never have what I have – a home, a mother, a father, a child. And I have done almost nothing wrong. I hope that the changes will make a huge impact and that people see that my name deserves recognition and my story deserves recognition.”

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