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The People Present Opening Arguments in Cal Harris Murder Trial

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Opening arguments began today in the third murder trial of Cal Harris, the Owego businessman charged with second degree murder for the death of his wife Michele in 2001. Our Samantha Bleiweis was in Schoharie County Court today for the people's opening argument, and tells us why the defense will wait until Monday to present it's opening statements.

Opening arguments did get underway today, but not without numerous objections from defense attorney Bruce Barket.

Barket said that many of the District Attorney's statements were prejudicial and shifted the burden of proof from the prosecution to prove Harris' guilt, to the defense to prove his innocence. Barket didn't feel it was something he and his team could recover from.

Because of this, Barket and his team demanded a mistrial, after Barket objected to statements made by Tioga County District Attorney Kirk Martins, specifically when Martin said: "You may be confronted by red herrings and shiny objects." Barket objected 5 times to this statement, saying it suggests that the defense will be presenting evidence to the jury. Under the law, the defense is not required to put on a case. But, Judge George Bartlett denied the motion for mistrial, saying that Martin in no way was outside the bounds of acceptable rhetoric.

Martin's opening statements focused on the fact that the Harris' were going through a bitter divorce that put Cal in financial stress, and that he was the only person with the motive and the opportunity to kill Michele. Martin called the killing of Michele Harris "the ultimate act of control." he laid out a detailed timeline of the marriage, divorce proceedings and the alleged murder--which was on September 11, 2001. He says there will be many pieces of evidence that come out during this trial that show that Cal was controlling of Michele, and he had threatened Michele before she disappeared. Martin countered a point the defense raised during jury selection when it asked: "Do you ever lose something and can't find it because you aren't looking in the right place for it?" Martin responded: "Michele did not fall out of somebody's pocket. Michele is not lost. The evidence will show the defendant murdered her and successfully hid her body."

Though Barket said he didn't agree with the judge's dismissal of the mistrial motion, he says there are still larger issues to address.

"The prosecution continues to ignore real evidence of other people's involvement in this crime. And despite what happened in the court room today...which we obviously thought was problematic, the bigger problem is they're ignoring the evidence of who actually committed this crime and have been for the last couple years," said Barket.

Opening arguments will continue Monday morning, when the defense will provide their opening statements and then the people will call their first witness.