Sexual assault defendant seeking state assistance to pay for expert witnesses

Sonny Long

June 17, 2011 at 1:17 a.m.

Billy Joe Harris

Billy Joe Harris

EDNA - Billy Joe Harris wants the state of Texas to help pay for expert witnesses in his aggravated sexual assault of a disabled person case in Jackson County.

Appearing before District Judge Skipper Koetter on Friday morning, Harris' attorney Alan Cohen and Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell discussed the motions for state assistance.

Additional documents needed to be filed before the case could move forward so no action was taken.

Harris, suspected as the Twilight Rapist, did not appear in court.

"This case is becoming extremely expensive to defend, way beyond the means of the family," Cohen said in an interview following the court appearance.

Cohen said the defense needs funds for testing scientific evidence and for a second psychological evaluation of Harris.

"It's a bear of a case," Cohen said.

Michael Sheppard, district attorney in DeWitt County, where Harris has been indicted on assault charges in Yoakum, explained how the state can become involved in paying for defense witnesses.

"A defendant who claims to be indigent can petition the court for funds that he feels are essential to his defense. The court has discretion on granting these kinds of requests," Sheppard said.

Harris is accused in a series of attacks on women, often elderly or disabled, and burglaries in South and Central Texas, including four in Yoakum, that began two years ago.

Additional charges in other counties are also pending against Harris.

DNA has linked the suspect to six assaults and Texas Rangers recovered evidence in his home from four burglaries, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Edna Police arrested Harris on Jan. 8 in Edna. He remains in the Jackson County Jail.

Bell said he hopes to be able to bring the case to trial by September.



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