Archive for Friday, July 25, 2003

Professor might take stand in murder trial

Wife of man charged in father’s death appears close to plea agreement

July 25, 2003


A Kansas University psychology professor could be among the expert defense witnesses in the case of a Lawrence man charged with murdering his elderly father by neglect.

The attorney for Timothy D. Harrell, 44, received court approval earlier this month to hire Lawrence Wrightsman Jr. to evaluate whether Harrell's "limited intellectual ability" caused him to make false confessions to police.

Defense attorney Greg Robinson also wants access to all of Harrell's student records from the Lawrence public schools, including intelligence tests and psychological reports.

Harrell faces charges of second-degree murder and mistreating a dependent adult. Prosecutors allege he withheld necessary treatment from his 84-year-old father, Henry F. Harrell, who died Nov. 20, 2002, of pneumonia and complications from bed sores.

Timothy Harrell's wife, Berdella I. Harrell, 40, faces one count of mistreating a dependent adult, but it appears she is close to reaching a plea agreement.

"This matter is going to be resolved short of trial," her attorney, J.C. Gilroy, said in court Thursday.

Henry F. Harrell lived with the couple in an apartment at Hampton Court, 1722 W. 24th St.

Because Timothy Harrell is considered indigent, the costs for his defense and for expert witnesses will be paid by the state. Robinson has received approval from Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone, subject to approval by the state Board of Indigents' Defense Services, to hire experts including:

  • Wrightsman, the KU professor, at $200 an hour to review "alleged statements and false admissions made by defendant during interrogation." Wrightsman declined comment Thursday.
  • Registered nurse Jane Zaccardi of Olathe at $100 per hour to review medical records.
  • Ann Allegre, director of medical programs at Kansas City Hospice, at $200 per hour to review medical records.

The estimated total costs for those three witnesses would be close to $10,000, according to court records.

Harrell's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8.

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