The day of the Scarsdale murder Jean Harris called in two associates at the Madeira School and asked them to witness a three-page will. It was written in red ink, just as her suicide notes had been, the notes asking she be cremated and "immediately thrown away."
Harris looked "very unlike" herself, one of the witnesses testified today. Her hair was pulled back to each side, haphazardly, and she was obviously weary and preoccupied.
"She seemed extremely tired and in quite a hurry," testified Yvonne Saffell, a bookkeeper at the McLean, Va., school. "I mentioned to her that Mrs. Green in another building was a notary public and it might be wise to have it notarized [but] Mrs. Harris left the building." i
The contents of the will were not revealed, despite efforts of the defense. But its existence did underscore a point the defense throughout the trial has tried to make. Harris, preceding the shooting of her lover, was "suicidally depressed" and that, when she left her Virginia home that night in March, she "had no intention of returning alive."
Former head of the Madeira School, Harris has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of her lover, Dr. Herman Tarnower, in the bedroom of his Harrison, N.Y., home.The defense claims Tarnower died as a resulf of an accident during a "struggle"; the prosecution, noting the four wounds the doctor sustained, including one in the back, has termed the shooting a classic, love-triangle murder.
Four wounds, after all, leave three accidents to explain. And, though the defense has made a good case for Harris' suicidal state of mind, and even provided an explanation for the gunshot wound to the doctor's hand, there has been no explanation, despite the presence of one of the country's leading forensic experts, of how the three additional wounds occurred.
There have been, however, small bits of evidence that lend credence to the defense position, and suggest an outline of some of the events that may have occurred in Virginia and New York. Among them was an arcane bit of testimony from defense witness Herbert L. MacDonell this morning, regarding three mysterious icepicks that were earlier entered into evidence by the defense, and a spent bullet cartridge.
That cartridge, MacDonell testified, bore evidence of a "tool mark or scratch," which would have resulted if someone had poked around the cartridge case with an icepick. There was no testimony that the person poking around the gun had been Harris, an inexperienced gunwoman.
But a source close to the defense later admitted the testimony had set groundwork for testimony that Harris at home in Virginia had test-fired her gun, and, unable to eject the bullet, had used an icepick in an attempt to push it out.
On the stand for the third day, MacDonell told Assistant District Attorney George Bolen that Harris went with him twice to the Tarnower home to aid his investigation. He also said that in his report to the defense team "my conclusion was that all the physical evidence thus far is completely consistent with the sequence of events as reported to me by Jean Harris."
Challenged by the prosecutor on objectivity while gathering evidence, he defended himself.
"I'm not really concerned with meeting the defendant; I'm concerned with the physical evidence," he said.
There is, however, some problem with the physical evidence in MacDonell's case. He was called in several months after the shooting, by which time much of the physical evidence, including bloodstained carpeting from the doctor's bedroom, had been destroyed. MacDonell has, of necessity, been working from police photographs. He also lost some credibility, under particularly aggressive cross-examination, when he admitted he did not notice bloodstains on a bedroom door until his second visit to Tarnower's home.
For the most part, however, he proved, as he has throughout his three days on the stand, a more than able opponent, so professional that he can remain deadpan, his voice neutral, as he shoots off a perfectly timed shot.
"You never attended medical school?" asked the prosecutor at one point, in the time-honored legalistic sytle of undermining the witness.
"No sir, not as a student, as a lecturer," said the witness.