The travails of Jean Harris were paraded again today before the jury, which must by now feel as familiar with that vale of sorrows as they are with the cream confines of the courtroom walls.
Included in the rundown was a fragment from Harris' last will, which was reminiscent of a set of suicide notes the jury had earlier heard. There was testimony from Harris' former secretary on the headmistress' feelings of anger and inadequacy at the Madeira School in Northern Virginia.
There was testimony from a long-time friend on Harris' depression and undying love for Scarsdale diet doctor Herman Tarnower. ("I told her that maybe she should start a new life in Washington, but she said that she could not conceive of life without Hy . . .")
There was, however, one bit of testimony that made the jurors perk up. It had to do with drugs, a presence like the others, which has previously been mentioned in the case, but which has yet to surface in any detail. Today, the testimony remained vague: the type of drug was not mentioned, nor was the doctor who prescribed the pills. But the presentation of the testimony, as elicited by defense attorney Joel Aurnou, was no mysterious, so titillating, that the entire courtroom seemed to lean forward in its seats.
It came as Aurnou was questioning the woman who had been Harris' secretary for two years, Carol Potts of McLean, Va. A petite woman with dark, close-cropped hair, Potts testified that a small package had arrived at Harris' office the day after the headmistress' arrest. Potts placed the package in the office safe, not opening it until the arrival of Harris' son, James. But when he came he opened the package in her presence, and Potts saw "two vials of pills."
"And did you recognize them?" asked the defense attorney.
"One I recognized, the other I can't swear to," the witness said.
"Was one of them a fairly short name beginning with the letter'D'?" continued the attorney, piquing the curiosity of the courtroom.
"Yes," was all the witness said.
In court since early October, Harris has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of her lover in the bedroom of his home last March. The defense, claiming that Harris was severely depressed, calls the shooting an "accident" -- Harris traveled to her lover's home, they say, not to shoot Tarnower, but to shoot herself. The four shots that killed the doctor, they argue, went off in a struggle over the gun.
Today, to bolster that position, they brought in two women who had been close to Harris to attest to her despair.
Barbara Stein, a Westchester friend of both Tarnower and Harris, testified that the autumn before the shooting, Harris had been "depressed, unhappy, worried."
"She was concerned about the future, she didn't feel that she could be a principal of a school for the rest of her life, and she didn't know where her life was headed," said Stein.
Harris' secretary, Potts, also indicated that Harris had been depressed the week of the shooting, perhaps even for months before. Following a meeting with the Madeira board in January, Harris, said Potts, was "very, very upset."
"She was crying pretty strongly . . . she said. 'I feel like packing my bags and getting the hell out of here'", quoted Potts.
Harris also seemed tired and depressed the week of the shooting, said Potts, and the day of the shooting looked as if she had cried. But perhaps most significant, in light of the events that followed, were Harris' actions a good two months before the shooting occurred.
At that time Potts said, Harris had gone through a process of getting her affairs in order, changing the beneficiaries of her insurance, telling her secretary where her best jewelery was hidden and who should be notified in case she were to die.
At the time, the secretary said, she had made a joke, but repeating it to the courtroom, with Harris pale and haggard before her, Potts began to cry.
"We all have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel," Potts had said.
The will Harris spoke of to Potts, though entered into evidence, has been sealed. But the defense read one phrase aloud to the jury.
"I wish to be immediately cremated wherever it is convenient and this should be done as cheaply as possible," she said.
The last four words were underlined.