The Kelsey Harris who spent hours on the stand in a Los Angeles courtroom this week had no thought who shot Megan Thee Stallion.
She mentioned she couldn’t keep in mind if the person accused of the crime, Canadian rapper Tory Lanez, had provided her cash in trade for her silence in court docket. She wouldn’t even say definitively that Megan Thee Stallion had been shot, repeatedly noting that’s what “Megan’s workforce” advised her, regardless that there’s no dispute that she sat subsequent to the bloodied hit maker that evening in an SUV.
Crucial particulars of that July 2020 evening have been “a blur,” Harris mentioned in court docket this week, recollections misplaced to an alcohol-induced fog brought on by doing one too many photographs at a Hollywood Hills get together hosted by make-up mogul Kylie Jenner.
The Kelsey Harris who spoke to prosecutors for one hour and 20 minutes in September, nonetheless, had a a lot clearer reminiscence.
“You begin listening to gunshots … I lookup perhaps on the second or third gunshot … you see Tory … he’s leaning over, the door’s open,” Harris mentioned, in accordance with a tape of the interview performed in court docket Friday. “He’s taking pictures excessive of the door, the suitable entrance passenger facet.”
The chasm between the 2 tales woven by Harris three months aside will play a essential function when jurors start deliberating subsequent week on the assault prices filed in opposition to Lanez, whose actual title is Daystar Peterson.
With the prosecution’s star witness gone rogue in court docket, authorized consultants say jurors may select to imagine the model of her that exists on tape, calmly figuring out Peterson because the shooter. However the confusion may simply as simply show fertile floor for cheap doubt and result in an acquittal.
“It’s a protection lawyer’s dream,” mentioned Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a New York protection legal professional and professor on the John Jay School of Prison Justice. “Any protection lawyer would say look to the extent that you simply don’t know what’s happening … that the burden is on the prosecution. You have a look at the prosecution in case your head is spinning.”
There have been solely three different individuals contained in the SUV that the “Savage” rapper, whose actual title is Megan Pete, was driving within the evening of the July 2020 taking pictures: Harris, Peterson and Peterson’s driver, Jaquan Smith.
Pete has accused Peterson of taking pictures her, and Peterson has denied all wrongdoing. It’s unclear if Smith will take the stand. That leaves Harris — Pete’s estranged greatest pal and former assistant — because the lone impartial witness to the evening’s violent occasions.
In his opening assertion Monday, L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alexander Bott cited Harris as a essential witness and displayed a textual content message she despatched to Pete’s head of safety the evening of the taking pictures. It learn, “Tory shot Meg.”
Pete’s private legal professional, Alex Spiro, additionally beforehand advised The Instances that Harris would offer “devastating proof” in opposition to Peterson.
However when Harris arrived in court docket Wednesday, she was flanked by an legal professional, Daniel Nardoni, who mentioned she could be invoking her fifth Modification proper to guard herself from self-incrimination except prosecutors provided her immunity.
Peterson’s protection workforce has lengthy supposed to color Harris because the shooter, noting that she had gunshot residue on her arms, whereas Peterson’s DNA was not discovered on the weapon used to shoot Pete.
The district legal professional’s workplace didn’t reply to an e-mail in search of remark. Peterson’s lead protection counsel, George Mgdesyan, declined a request for an interview about Harris’ conduct on the stand this week.
Harris’ lawyer, Nardoni, mentioned he knowledgeable prosecutors his consumer could be invoking her fifth Modification rights on Tuesday, the evening earlier than she was scheduled to testify. Throughout a listening to in chambers, Los Angeles County Superior Court docket Decide David Herriford “concluded it was a sound assertion and [Harris] didn’t should reply questions within the absence of being given immunity,” Nardoni mentioned.
Nardoni declined to touch upon the discrepancies between Harris’ taped testimony and the statements she made in court docket.
Nardoni had requested blanket immunity for her consumer, which means she may by no means be charged with any crime in relations to the taking pictures. Prosecutors as a substitute granted Harris “use immunity,” which means her testimony at Peterson’s trial couldn’t be utilized in furtherance of future legal prices in opposition to her. However her two days on the stand may go away the district legal professional’s workplace with purchaser’s regret.
Each time prosecutors questioned Harris concerning the September interview, she responded that she couldn’t keep in mind what she mentioned throughout that dialogue, couldn’t keep in mind the occasions of the taking pictures or that she “wasn’t 100% truthful” with prosecutors previously.
Beneath each direct questioning and cross-examination, she has not mentioned what, if something, she particularly lied about within the interview, solely referring to the necessity to defend herself.
A visibly nervous Harris wanted repeated breaks on the stand, typically summoning her lawyer for recommendation. L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathy Ta appeared to develop aggravated with Harris, at instances reminding her that, even with immunity, she may nonetheless be charged with perjury if she lied on the stand.
“It’s onerous to recollect these occasions,” Harris mentioned at one level.
“It wasn’t so onerous in September,” Ta replied, a transparent edge to her voice.
Harris was unequivocal throughout her testimony on a number of factors: that she didn’t shoot Pete, that she hadn’t been paid a dime by Peterson’s workforce and that she had not been “compromised” between September and this week, rebutting an allegation Spiro made to a gossip web site.
When requested why she despatched the textual content message saying “Tory shot Meg” on the evening of the assault, Harris mentioned she did so in a “panic” and solely assumed Peterson opened hearth. She repeatedly mentioned in court docket that she didn’t see him with a gun. Harris additionally mentioned she didn’t keep in mind sending textual content messages to Pete describing an assault dedicated by Peterson that evening.
Initially, prosecutors had been allowed to play solely parts of her recording to refresh her recollection on the stand, and Herriford advised jurors they may not take into account the tape as proof.
However that modified after Mgdesyan made remarks throughout his cross-examination that urged prosecutors had pressured Harris through the September interview. Bott then requested to play the entire recording to rebut the concept prosecutors acted improperly. Herriford agreed.
On tape, Harris’ reminiscence is way more vivid.
“I don’t know if [Peterson] was hitting me with a closed fist or he was slapping me, however there was a bodily altercation,” Harris mentioned, including she “turned afraid for my life when he began pulling my hair and my neck actually, actually onerous.”
Harris additionally clearly described Pete as having been shot and bleeding, in accordance with the recording, and likewise confirmed she despatched the textual content message blaming Peterson for the taking pictures.
On the tape, Harris additionally echoed Pete’s declare that Peterson had promised each girls $1 million every the evening of the taking pictures in the event that they didn’t report it to police. Days later, Harris mentioned on tape, Peterson additionally requested her if she wanted cash to put money into a enterprise or a job after the taking pictures. She didn’t explicitly say Peterson tried to bribe her in trade for her refusing to cooperate with authorities.
The prosecution is anticipated to complete its case Monday. Closing arguments within the trial may come as quickly as Wednesday. It’s unclear how, if in any respect, the Christmas vacation may have an effect on jury deliberations.
Mgdesyan’s protection is anticipated to concentrate on shifting blame for the taking pictures to Harris, who examined constructive for gunshot residue after the incident. A constructive check for residue doesn’t imply somebody fired a gun, however Mgdesyan additionally says he has a witness who can determine Harris because the shooter.
Moreover, Peterson’s DNA was not discovered on the journal contained in the weapon used to shoot Pete, and DNA checks making an attempt to hyperlink Peterson to the gun have been “inconclusive.” Police didn’t acquire a DNA pattern from Harris to match.
Though the decide’s determination to permit prosecutors to play the recorded interview has been celebrated as a victory by Pete’s large fan base, authorized consultants mentioned its impact on a jury is much from clear.
Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who serves as a professor at Loyola Regulation College, mentioned the jurors may select to imagine Harris was being truthful the primary time and has since folded beneath stress from an out of doors drive. Levenson additionally mentioned the jury’s interpretation of the demeanors of each Harris and the prosecutors on the tape may play a key function.
In the event that they imagine Bott and Ta have been main her within the taped interview, they may select to take Harris’ testimony in court docket as true. But when they imagine Harris was spontaneous and forthright on tape, versus her fixed pauses and deflections on the stand, they could take the tape as gospel as a substitute.
“If the reality is she simply appears like she’s pouring out the data throughout this interview, then it’ll be simpler for the prosecution to argue you must imagine her earlier than,” Levenson mentioned. “One thing like this, a hiccup like this, may equally trigger cheap doubt.
“They only want one juror to say I can’t convict somebody of this severe crime once I’m getting two totally different variations,” she mentioned. “She’s the important thing witness, and it will have been higher for the prosecutors if she had stayed on level, nevertheless it’s not the tip of the case in the event that they needed to play their prior assertion.”