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Convicted 'Twilight Rapist' loses appeal

By Jessica Priest
Aug. 1, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.
Updated Aug. 2, 2013 at 3:02 a.m.


COURT RECORDS

Billy Joe Harris was convicted three times, once by a Jackson County jury, once by a judge in Walker County for a crime in Leon County and once by plea agreement for two sexual assaults in DeWitt County.

Month Year/Location of Crime/Sentence

• January 2011/Jackson County/Life

• April 2012/Leon County/99 years

• August 2012/DeWitt County/35 years times 2

SOURCE: Victoria Advocate Archives

Convicted rapist Billy Joe Harris' attempts to blame his crimes on multiple personality disorder continue to fail.

Justices with the 13th Court of Appeals affirmed Thursday Harris' Jackson County conviction of sexual assault of a disabled person.

Harris, dubbed by authorities as the "Twilight Rapist," challenged his 2011 conviction because he thought the trial court judge, Skipper Koetter, should have included testimony offered by Dr. Colin Ross.

Ross, a psychiatrist hired by the defense, diagnosed Harris with multiple personality disorder, now defined as dissociative identity disorder. Ross said the diagnosis does not automatically mean Harris "doesn't understand the wrongfulness of his acts, but it could," according to court records.

Gov. Rick Perry created a task force for the capture of a serial rapist in 2010, and authorities linked Harris by DNA and other evidence to multiple burglaries and sexual assaults of women between the ages 65 to 91 in the Crossroads area and Central Texas since 2009.

Harris was convicted of similar crimes in at least two other counties so far, according to earlier reports.

The justices believed Ross did little prove why he or multiple personality should be taken seriously, especially because he did not talk extensively about his patients with similar issues nor provide the trial court with the names of the journals in which the estimated 150 papers he'd written on the subject were published.

Another witness also described multiple personality disorder as "dangerous junk science," the justices wrote.

Bobby Bell, the Jackson County criminal district attorney, was not surprised by the outcome of Harris' appeal.

He recalled arguing with "David the Dog," one of Harris' three alleged personalities. Harris would bow his head, act as if he was in a trance and curse while on the stand until Koetter threatened to activate a shocking device placed on his inner thigh, Bell said.

While assisting a district attorney in the Leon County trial against Harris, Bell remembered Harris carrying on conversations with a nearby television and portraits of Gen. Sam Houston that hung in the courtroom.

"It was a joke," Bell said Thursday. "I wanted to tell him, 'Is that the best you can do?'"

Defense attorney Alan Cohen, meanwhile, continues to believe Harris' behavior was anything but a joke.

He said that was proven during the Leon County trial when a judge allowed a Houston psychologist to testify that Harris has schizophrenia.

Cohen was caught off guard when the state challenged his expert in Jackson County and described trying the case there as going back into the "Dark Ages."

Harris' mental illness stems from a rough childhood, a time when he was subjected to pornography and bestiality, Cohen said.

"That certainly does not in my mind excuse the horror that was placed on all these individual women, but the law provides a person can be found not guilty because of insanity," he said.

Cohen said had Harris been found insane, he would have been confined to a setting very much like a prison for a very long time.

"This man was insane," Cohen said. "I'm 100 percent convinced of that and remain so to this day."

Harris' appellate attorney, Luis A. Martinez, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Bell, who has practiced law for more than 30 years, said this case will stick with him. The victims were both very religious and courageous, he said.

One woman chased Harris out of her house. She fired a gun at him, but it malfunctioned, he said.

"I asked her, 'What have you learned as a result of this?'" Bell said. "She said, 'Well, I've got a bigger gun and better bullets.' ... It destroyed their lives. It was the worst thing that you can imagine."

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