After three weeks of testimony from 16 witnesses, the pretrial hearing for former Madeira School headmistress Jean Harris ended today as both sides in the second-degree murder case summed up.
At issue are a number of incriminating statements made by the McLean, Va., school head the night Dr. Herman Tarnower lay dying of four gunshot wounds. The hearing also is to determine whether the alleged murder weapon, a .32-cal. pistol recovered from the front seat of Harris' car, with a box of ammunition, can be used as evidence at her trial, Jury selection is to begin Tuesday.
Throughout the hearing, which resulted in more than 1,000 pages of testimony, Harris' attorney, Joel Aurnou, has maintained that those statements -- including such highly charged comments as "he hit me, he hit me a lot," and "I've been through so much hell with him; he slept with every woman he could. I'd had it" -- were obtained after police failed properly to inform Harris of her rights. He also questioned the methods police used to obtain the gun and ammunition.
In his summation, Aurnou insisted that from shortly after Harris returned to Tarnower's house with police on the night of his death, she was a suspect, and that police failed to inform her then of her rights. He also maintained that since police had acted improperly in reading Harris her rights, statements made by her after this also are inadmissible.
In earlier testimony, police detective Arthur Siciliano, to whom Harris made most of her statements on the night Tarnower died, said that upon arriving at the doctor's house, he had asked Harris and Tarnower's servants general questions about what had happened and that Harris had said she had shot the doctor, whereupon Siciliano read her her rights.
In his summation, Aurnou said the officer knew Harris was a suspect before he asked any questions and that he should have read her rights to her immediately.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lalla said Harris had been read her rights the moment she made an incriminating statement and he termed a number of her statements "totally voluntary" or "spontaneous."
"The police don't have to gag a talkative person," he said.
Judge Russell R. Legget said he will rule Tuesday on what evidence will be admitted in the trial.