Panel Approves Venue Shift for Third Murder Trial

, New York Law Journal

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An Appellate Division, Third Department, panel has ordered a change of venue for the retrial of a businessman accused of killing his wife. The case will be moved from Tioga County, where Calvin Harris has been convicted twice of murder, to Schoharie County, about 120 miles away.

Harris, 52, is on trial for the 2007 slaying of his wife Michele Harris.

Harris' attorney, Donna Aldea of Barket, Marion, Epstein & Kearon in Garden City, argued that due to the extensive publicity Harris received in Tioga County during his two prior trials, his chances of getting a fair trial on the third attempt were nil. Aldea asked the panel to move the trial to Ulster County or any other "suitable" county as long as it is not in the Binghamton media market.

Tioga County prosecutors countered that it is still possible for Harris to get a fair trial there, and they proposed expanding the jury pool to include residents of nearby counties.

Third Department Presiding Justice Karen Peters and Justices John Lahtinen, Leslie Stein and John Egan Jr. approved the change of venue on Jan. 14.

Harris' two previous convictions, in 2007 and 2009, were overturned. The Court of Appeals ordered a new trial after finding the trial judge had erred by seating a juror whose impartiality was questionable and improperly admitting statements into evidence from the victim to her sisters-in-law (NYLJ, Oct. 19, 2012).

Michele Harris was last seen alive on Sept. 11, 2001. Neither her body nor a murder weapon have been recovered.

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