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Harris told girlfriend he put on a 'show' in court

By BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Sept. 20, 2011 at 4:20 a.m.


DAUBERT HEARING

Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell indicated Tuesday afternoon that he may request a Daubert hearing in the Billy Joe Harris trial. A Daubert hearing is an evaluation by a trial judge on the admissibility of scientific and technical, testimony and evidence. A Daubert hearing is conducted out of the jury's presence.

EDNA - Billy Joe Harris, in a March telephone call from the Jackson County Jail, asked his girlfriend whether she enjoyed the show he had put on in court earlier that day.

Harris had been transferred to Leon County for a court hearing that day and during the proceeding fell to the floor and twitched and shook until being restrained.

"It was a good show wasn't it?" Harris is heard saying on an audio recording of the phone call, followed by several seconds of laughter. "I told you I had to help him."

The girlfriend warned Harris that the telephone call is being recorded.

"I know it," he said.

While the recording was playing in court Tuesday, Harris began yelling from the defense table.

"I was talking about 'Red Riding Hood!' He's lying! It's been manipulated."

The movie "Red Riding Hood" was released in March, and Harris later mentions it on the recording.

Judge Skipper Koetter ordered Harris, who is suspected of being what has been dubbed the Twilight Rapist, removed from the proceedings. He was moved to a room near the courtroom equipped with a monitor to allow him to watch the trial via cameras.

The tape continued.

"I had to do that to get the ball rolling," Harris is heard saying. I told you he was moving too slow. I told you I had to put on that picture show."DEFENSE EXPERTS

The tape was played while psychiatrist Dr. Colin Ross, of Richardson, was on the stand.

Ross, a defense witness, testified that he believed Harris suffered from multiple personality disorder.

Asked about the stories Harris told in court on Monday concerning bestiality, combat duty and other topics, Ross said, "He's clearly telling stories that are not true, but I don't think he's faking the dissociative identify disorder, I could be wrong."

Before Ross took the stand, psychologist Walter Quijano testified that he spent six hours talking with Harris.

Quijano said it was unusual for a person to start a series of crimes at his age.

"Criminal careers do not start at 50. They start in the late teens, early 20s," said Quijano. "These offenses are atypical of him. There's none of that in his history."

Harris, 54, of Missouri City, is on trial for sexual assault of a disabled woman in Edna on Jan. 8. He is accused of several other rapes and burglaries in Central and South Texas beginning in 2009. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Quijano said he stepped aside on the case when the issue of multiple personalities was raised.

"I told the lawyer (Alan Cohen) that he needs someone who specializes in dissociative identity disorder. I have not studied this and not trained. Ethics require I back off," he said.

Enter Ross as the expert.

In private practice at his own clinic since 1991, Ross specializes in psychological trauma including dissociative identity disorder.

Ross referred to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Inclusion of an official statement about dissociative identity disorder in the DSM means that it's a "real and valid disorder," Ross said.

Ross described the disorder as a splitting, fracturing or fragmenting of the psyche.

Ross sent three tests to Cohen who administered them to his client and sent the results back to Ross.

Harris' score on the Dissociative Experiences Scale, which is a screening for the disorder, was so high it caused Ross to question its validity.

"It immediately raises the question if he is exaggerating symptoms," Ross said. "It appears he is exaggerating some of the symptoms or didn't understand the questions."

Ross said he talked to one of Harris' personalities, Bobby, for about 35 minutes during his three-hour, 25-minute interview with Harris.

"Bobby came out and talked," Ross said. "Billy remembers most of what Bobby does. Sometimes Bobby doesn't let him know what's going on."

Ross testified that based on the tests, his interview with Harris and hearing Harris' courtroom testimony on Monday, Harris has multiple personality disorder.QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY

District Attorney Bobby Bell began his cross examination of Ross by getting him to agree that the areas of dissociative identity disorder and multiple personality disorder are controversial.

Bell then reeled off a list of leaders of the early dissociative identity disorder movement who had been either sued or had their licenses revoked or both.

The district attorney asked Ross if he made any attempt to determine if Harris was lying about the stories he told.

Ross admitted he did not.

Bell asked if Ross had any personal knowledge of who actually answered the test questions.

Ross said he did not.

"If you were able to get someone off with a multiple personality defense, you would be in high demand as an expert witness wouldn't you?" Bell asked.

"It's possible," Ross said.

Confirming with Ross that all the personalities claimed by Harris were all together in one body, Bell asked, "All the heinous acts that were committed, the body of Billy Joe Harris would know they are wrong?" Bell asked.

"Whether it was Billy in control or Bobby in control, they would know it was wrong," said Ross.

Ross said he thought Bobby was trying to hurt Billy and get him in trouble.

"Billy is trying to get out of trouble, but his strategies are preposterous," Ross said.

After Ross' testimony, the defense rested its case.'JUNK SCIENCE'

Bell called Chris Barden to the stand.

Barden, a psychologist and an attorney from Minnesota, is involved in assisting the legal system with mental health issues.

"One of the ways to get junk science out of the legal system is you rely on the relevant scientific community," Barden said. "If something is controversial it means it's not generally acceptable."

Barden cited at least a half dozen articles published in professional journals concerning the rejection of dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder as a viable diagnosis.

"They are labels, not theories," he said.

He also said the DSM that Ross referred to is simply a dictionary or catalog so that psychiatrists and psychologists are "using the same language."

"Because something is in the DSM doesn't mean it's reliable or should be allowed in a court of law," he said.

Barden said the number of mental health professionals who tout dissociative identity disorder as viable are few and far between.

"There are a few pockets of people left who are doing this," he said. "The scientists I know condemn it to be the worst kind of junk science and dangerous to the public. Controversial and experimental theories should not be allowed to contaminate the legal system."

Concerning the tests given to Harris, Barden said, "There's no magic to these tests. It looks scientific. It looks professional, but when you get down into it, it's junk. It's unusual for a psychiatrist to interpret a psychological test and it's highly unethical for Mr. Cohen to give the tests."

Barden said he doubts Ross could tell whether Harris was faking or not.

"Mental health professionals are no better lie detectors than bartenders or taxi drivers," he said. "If someone lies to you about one thing, you can assume they are going to lie about a lot of things."

Barden said Harris' attempt to convince the jury of his mental illness didn't ring true with him.

"He just didn't get the symptoms right," he said. "He made a lot of mistakes about what multiple personality disorder looks like."

Testimony continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Jackson County District Courtroom.

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