Murder conviction reinstated in death of 14-month-old
On a 4-3 vote, the Nevada Supreme Court has reinstated the first degree murder conviction of Mariann Harris in the death of a 14-month-old.
A jury convicted her of the murder and child abuse/neglect but the district court judge overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial pointing to prosecutorial misconduct.
The majority wrote Harris failed to invoke her 5th Amendment rights and, therefore, comments about her failure to appear at a second police interview weren’t improper. The majority also concluded prosecutors pointing out she didn’t show up for a Child Protective Services hearing on the custody of her children didn’t constitute misconduct.
But in a dissent, her first since joining the court earlier this year, Justice Lidia Stiglich wrote “it is clear from the record that the district court was concerned with the prosecution’s attempts at misleading the jury on the reasons for Harris’ absence from the second interview and the child custody hearing.”
She quoted the district judge who wrote she was clearly acting on advice of counsel.
“The state improperly portrayed Harris to the jury in a manner that was not in accord with the evidence,” Stiglich wrote.
She argued the district judge was in the best position to determine the prejudicial effect of the prosecutor and the effect of that misconduct on the jury and within her authority to grant a new trial.
Harris was convicted in Las Vegas of murder and two counts of child abuse in October 2013.
Prosecutors said Harris beat to death 14-month-old Dyon Johnson on Aug. 13, 2011.