In a florid and dramatic-closing argument capped with the reading of a love poem, the defense in Jean Jarros' murder trial today called her "a woman who gave the greatest gift a woman has to give," and reiterated its position that she never intended to harm Dr. Herman Tamower, but rather went to his home-last March to commit suicide.
The defense also stunned the courtroom by saying it prefers to risk all in the trial, having the jury decide only between second-degree murder and innocence, rather than consider lesser charges when the case goes to the jury Tuesday.
"Don't compromise in the search for truth," defense attorney Joel Aurnou thundered to the jury at the peak of his three-hour summation. "We can take it.... Let's see if they [the prosecutors] can.... Don't let Dr. Tarnower's life be tarnished.... Don't say his life ended in a homicidal rage in some sordid affair.... Restore the dignity of Dr. Tarnower himself, a man who revered life, a man who gave his life trying to save another..."
Four hours later, prosecutor George Bolen, in his own dramatic closing, said that he, too, prefers that the jurors decide between the charge of murder in the second degree or innocence.
He also conceded that Harris, when she drove from her home in Virginia to her lover's home in Westchester, may have intended to commit suicide, as the defense claims. But suicide, the prosecutor said, fairly shouting, was not the only thing on Harris' mind.
"There was dual intent," yelled Bolen, in a closing argument that made Harris cry out in protest, "to take her own life, but also an intent to do something else...to punish Herman Tarnower...to kill him, keep him from Lynne Tryforos and take her own life!"
Harris, the former headmistress of the Madeira School in McLean, Va., has been on trial for more than three months, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of the 69-year-old-Tarnower, her l;over of 14 years, in his bedroom last March.
On the witness stand, Harris, 57, insisted that she drove to the doctor's home "for one last moment of peace with Hi" before taking her own life next to a pond near his home "where the daffodils bloom in spring." A love triangle, the defense team has said, was never a motive for the shooting; instead, it was "a tragic accident," a suicide attempt gone awry.
The prosecution, noting that Tarnower was shot four times, claims the shootng was "intentional, volitional;" that Tarnower had been increasingly in the company of Tryforos, his assistant, who was 20 years his junior. The prosecution also has used the "Scarsdale Letter"--a raging, often obscene letter that Harris wrote to Tarnower the weekend before the shooting--to prove its contention that Harris was inflamed over Tryforos, and over the doctor's interest in her. In that letter, Harris calls Tryforos "a vicious, adulterous psychotic" and says that she is "distraught" that Tarnower prefers Tryforos' company.
Today, in his closing argument, defense attorney Aurnou sought to overcome the effect of that letter, using a style so baroque--that at times it seemed to cease being dramatic and approach the operatic. Hisd voice was loud and outraged when discussing the prosecution's allegations, and was a near quaver when he spoke of Harris' love.
There was name calling aplenty: the prosecution's case, he said, was "concoction" and fabrication;" the evidence-gathering techniques of the local police force, he termed "Operation Clod."
As he has done throughout this trial, Aurnou tried to downplay a love triangle and jealousy, as a possible motive for the shooting,
"That was old news," he said, referring to the fact that Tarnower had been seeing Tryforos for six years. "What happened March 10 was caused by a whole series of events: Jean Harris' children grown, and the next empty; a romance that no longer sustained her; a situation at school that was bleak; desolation and depres sion, about which Herman Tarnower knew and sent medicatio which masked but did not treat that depression...."
He said that the "triggering event" that led to Harris' driving to the doctor's home was not his relationship with Tryforos, but a letter Harris received the day of the shooting -a letter critical of her -from a favorite student.
The damaging contents of the "Scarsdale Letter" -which he called " a window to her soul" that showed "the tragedy of her life" -Aurnou largely tried to avoid. He quoted the part that said Harris expected to kie "long before" Tarnower, and a statement in whicvh Harris said of Tryforos: "Let her have all the money she wants, Hi, but give me you."
Aurnou denied a love triangle when addressing himself to one of Harris' most damaging statements: a comment she made to police the night of the shooting that Tarnower had slept "with every woman he could and I'd had it."
"There was no mention of Lynne," argued Aurnou. "There was no love triangle -she said every woman he could... that's the antithesis of a love triangle."
He closed his argument with an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem: "Time does not bring relief/You all have lied who told me it would ease,u @aom/I miss him in the weeping of the rain/I want him at the shrinking of the tide/The old snows melt from every mountainside/And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane/Bt last year's bitter loving must remain...."
Prosecutor Bolen opened his arguments by telling the jurors they must not be ruled by "sympathy." He also found it necessary to address himself to the doctor's fondness for ladies, in what has become, in some quarters, a feminist case.
"He did what was his right, no matter how we might regard his actions," Bolen said. "And we must ask ourselves would we be so quick to condemn a woman who chose a bachelor life? We cannot pass judgement...."
Rising to an impassioned pitch, Bolen insisted that a love triangle was the motivation for the shooting.
"Jean Harris did not take her position with Herman Tarnower....She felt threatened not by number of women, but by one," he said.
And he argued that the "triggering" event in the shooting was not pressures at school which he said Harris had experienced throughout her professional life, but as Monday morning telephone call from the doctor telling her that whe would not be his date at an upcoming testimonial dinner and he no longer wanted to see her.
"That was her all-consuming passion, that upcoming April dinner," yelled Bolen. "All her friends would be there...the doctor would be there with Lynne Tryforos, not with her...she calls him at the office, we've heard testimony as to what he said: 'Godammit, Jean, stop bothering me!' and that was the triggering event. That was the triggering event." T"That was her all-consuming passion, that upcoming April dinner," yelled Bolen. "All her friends would be there...the doctor would be there with Lynne Tryforos, not with her...she calls him at the office, we've heard testimony as to what he said: 'Godammit, Jean, stop bothering me!' and that was the triggering event. That was the triggering event."