The defense in the Jean Harris murder trial rested today, bringing in as its last witnesses two psychiatrists who testified that Harris' despair and anxiety the week before the fatal shooting of Dr. Herman Tarnower could have been a result of her withdrawal from drugs.
The drug the psychitrists addressed themselves to was Desoxyn, an amphetamine Tarnower had prescribed for Harris for nearly 10 years, but which she stopped taking when her perscription ran out the week before the March 10 shooting. Such an abrupt cessation, according to the psychiatrists, could have led to significant emotional upset.
"It could have lead to a feeling of being somewhat washed out, diminished drive, somewhat lethargic . . . to feeling rather pessimistic, easily overwhelmed, less able to cope, a sense of some hopelessness," testified Dr. Burton M. Angrist, a professor of psychiatry at New York University Medical College.
Dr. Lois Fischler, a chief psychiatrist at the Westchester County Medical Center, concurred.
"You could expect fatigue, lassitude, some anxiety, a feeling of being down in the dumps -- perhaps way down in the dumps, agitation, sadness, melancholia," she said, "also a sense of diminished self-worth, negative self-image."
Harris, 57, the former headmistress of the Madeira School in McLean, Va., is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Tarnower, her lover for 14 years, in the bedroom of his home.
The prosecution, claiming that Tarnower had been involved with another woman -- his assistant, Lynne Tryforos, who is 20 years Harris' junior -- claims that Harris shot Tarnower intentionally in a jealous rage.
Harris, on the witness stand, has insisted that she drove to her lover's home with a pistol and a bunch of daisies for one reason -- "a few last moments of peace with Hi" -- before commiting suicide. She also has testified that she had been taking drugs for nearly 10 years -- mostly Desoxyn, prescribed by the doctor -- and that the week before the shooting she had run out of the drug. She also, in the past week, has spoken of her emotional state, not only during the week before the shooting but also for the past few years of her life.
"I felt tired, unwell, discouraged, inadequate," she said of her feelings the week before the shooting. "I felt a continuing fatigue, growing and mounting -- a depression, I think."
She also admitted that those feelingsof depression were not new to her, but she said they were growing more intense.
"I had a growing panic," she said. "I had always felt inadequate, but that week I was terrified by my inadequacy -- I was afraid I couldn't function . . . ."
Today, the defense sought to prove that those feelings of inadequacy, depression and anxiety could have been caused, at least in part, by her withdrawal from drugs. Calling to the stand the two psychitrists, defense attorney Joel Aurnou asked them to consider a "hypothetical patient, a woman about 100 pounds," who had, for the past four years, taken amphetamines daily in doses of 5, 7, and in the last year -- 10 milligrams, and who had then been forced to stop using the drug "when the supply was discontinued."
Both agreed that in most instances there would be some effect, though the results would vary with the individual. They were also in accord that the effects would peak the first few days after withdrawal from the drug. Angrist said, under questioning from the defense, that those peak effects could "last days, weeks or months."
Harris, according to her testimony ran out of Desoxyn March 6, four days before the shooting, and requested additional drugs from Tarnower. According to testimony, two vials of drugs -- one of them containing Desoxyn -- arrived in the mail from the doctor to Harris the day after his death.
Today, after eight emotional days on the witness stand, Harris was recalled briefly by the defense to identify a vial that had contained the drug. The prosecutor, George Bolen, took advantage of that to question her on her drug usage.
"Do you know whether you were addicted to the medication Desoxyn?" he asked, and when the defense objected to the question, "Did you regard yourself physically dependent on the medication?"
"I didn't think about it," snapped back Harris, "I trusted Hi, I didn't question it."
The prosecutor repeated his question three times, then four; "Yes or no, Mrs. Harris. Were you physically dependent? Please answer the question."
"I never thought of it as a dependency, it was something I used and I didn't do without it . . . I guess in that sense I was dependent on it . . ." dHarris said.
Later she showed her temper, as she had with the prosecutor throughout this trail.
"If you are saying I did something illegal, I don't accept that."
Rebuttal witnesses, possibly including Lynne Tryforos, the much publicized other woman in this case -- are expected when the trial resumes Monday.