Mistrial ruled in rape trial of doctor

July 03, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury deliberating the fate of a doctor charged with raping three women in separate attacks told the judge yesterday that they were "hopelessly deadlocked," and the judge declared a mistrial.

As soon as the jury left the courtroom, Assistant State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger withdrew the rape charges against Dr. Leonard C. Harris, saying he didn't want to put the victims through another trial.

Mr. Shellenberger said Harris, 37, is likely to serve a substantial prison sentence anyway, on his conviction last week for kidnapping, assault, housebreaking, and fleeing a police officer in another case.

When he was arrested, police found clothing, a handgun and other items matching descriptions from three women who were raped in separate attacks in 1990 and 1991.

He was accused of raping a Towson State University student in her dormitory room on July 26, 1990, a 25-year-old pregnant White Marsh woman Feb. 7, 1991, and a 21-year-old White Marsh woman Nov. 10, 1991.

Yesterday, several jurors interviewed said that the vote was split between 11 white male jurors voting for guilt and a black female juror voting for acquittal. Harris is black.

"She could not be persuaded," said one juror, who did not want his name published. "She could not and would not change her mind."

But the female juror said several panel members initially voted for acquittal, and she continued to find reasonable doubt after they changed their minds. "I didn't feel there was any tangible evidence to convict Dr. Harris. . . . The judge said if there were any reasonable doubts, we should vote not guilty." Race had no bearing on her decision, she added.

Several jurors said they had been ready to vote for acquittal until Harris testified on his own behalf. He denied having raped the women and said he was elsewhere on the days in question. The jurors called his story unbelievable.

Of greatest concern to the male jurors who were interviewed was the fact that Harris could not produce records to verify his whereabouts when the rapes occurred.

"It's inconceivable that a doctor working in a clinic could not produce records," said one juror.

"Being a doctor and stuff," said another, "he ought to have records of his whereabouts."

Judge J. William Hinkel ordered Harris to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before he is sentenced on the kidnapping and other convictions Sept. 9. The doctor faces a maximum of 64 years in prison on those charges.

Rodney Gaston, Harris' attorney, said he would ask for a new trial on those convictions, claiming that a state's witness had lied.

Betty Craven testified that Harris had grabbed her and threatened her with a gun. When recalled by the defense, she denied telling a television reporter she might have misidentified Harris in court.

The television reporter later testified that Mrs. Craven invited him into her apartment and said she might have picked out the wrong man.

Mr. Gaston said that his client was innocent of all the charges and that Harris was the victim of mistaken identity in the first place, when he was arrested Nov. 29, 1991.

Several jurors were surprised to learn yesterday that Harris had been convicted of assault and of being a peeping Tom in the late 1980s.

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