Christopher Harris is one of two brothers being charged in
the deaths of the Raymond Gee family in 2009. He was the first to be
arrested, on Oct. 1, 2009. His brother Jason was arrested six days
later, on Oct. 7. The two face a multitude of charges, from several
counts of murder to robbery. Both have pleaded not guilty and will
eventually be tried by jury.
Representing the prosecution was
Logan County Assistant State's Attorney Jonathan Wright and
Assistant Attorney General Mike Atterberry.
Judge Harris began by noting that in January he had been notified
by Elmore and the state's attorney's office of a potential issue
that had arisen that might prevent Elmore from continuing as
Christopher Harris' representative.
Judge Harris said he had spoken briefly about this, but without
going into detail, at the Jan. 26 status hearing.
After that hearing, the defense and prosecuting attorney had met
and discussed the situation, and on Feb. 3, Elmore entered a motion
to be removed from Christopher Harris' case.
Judge Harris said that based on the information he had received,
he agreed there was an issue that could disqualify Elmore.
Harris said he then set out to try to find a suitable replacement
for Elmore. He indicated that he spoke to several attorneys about
the case, some whom he contacted and some who contacted him.
He narrowed the list to what he considered the best choices, then
contacted approximately 12 other judges and discussed each attorney,
seeking their opinion on who would be best suited to take Elmore's
He said the various judges had offered a great deal of
information. They provided details about the attorneys as they knew
them, about their background and also their court experience.
Harris said that as he conducted his search, he had to bear in
mind the financial strain on Logan County right now, as the county
is responsible for paying the court-appointed attorney.
When Christopher Harris and his brother Jason were arrested and
charged in 2009, the multiple charges of murder qualified the case
as a capital punishment case, and therefore it qualified for state
funding through the state's Capital Litigation Fund.
It was with the understanding that the state would be footing the
bills that Harris appointed James Elmore. Early on, the court
appointed attorney Patrick Timoney to the case as well,
then attorney John Rogers in 2010.
With capital punishment no longer a sentence option in Illinois,
the Capital Litigation Fund no longer exists.
Thursday morning, Harris said that in his search for a suitable
replacement for Elmore, he had found that replacement representation
for Christopher Harris could be brought in that would benefit the
Therefore he said he would set aside Elmore's request to withdraw
and would instead vacate his own appointment of Elmore and Rogers to
the case. After this step he would then appoint two new attorneys:
Dan Fultz and Peter Naylor of Brown, Hay & Stephens, LLP of
Harris asked Fultz to speak on the issue that had arisen in
January and eventually brought about Elmore's request to withdraw.
Fultz said that during the investigation of the Gee family
murders, there had been an interview with Eric Marshall. Fultz did
not explain the significance of this but said he had determined that
Marshall's questioning had no bearing on the case and would not be
mentioned during the course of Christopher Harris' trial.
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Harris then asked Elmore to give his opinion regarding Eric
Marshall. Elmore said, "Given what I know, I would not raise
Marshall in the trial."
Elmore and Fultz concurred that this presented no conflict in the
case and Assistant Attorney General Atterberry also stated he had no
concerns about this.
In addition to hearing from the attorney for Christopher Harris,
Judge Harris also accepted a written request from the defendant.
He read the letter in silence, then addressed it, saying
Christopher Harris was requesting that James Elmore remain his
Judge Harris explained to the defendant that because at the time
of his arrest Christopher Harris had been found to be indigent,
without means of paying for a defense, he had been appointed an
attorney by the courts.
Because this was a court appointment, it was handled differently
than had Elmore been hired by the defendant. Therefore, he said he
would not consider Christopher Harris' request.
However, he also reiterated that he had done a great deal of
research before selecting Fultz and Naylor. He said he is confident
they will represent Christopher Harris with "integrity, capability,
experience and vigor."
As the hearing came to a close, Elmore indicated he would turn
over the massive volumes of discovery he has collected in the case
to Fultz and Naylor. Atterberry said he also would provide
compliance documents on the discovery for the two new attorneys to
review and compare with their own records.
Judge Harris ended by saying he greatly appreciated the work
Elmore had done on the case thus far and that the removal of Elmore
was regrettable. He ended by saying, "I am sorry to lose you."
Immediately following the hearing, the new attorneys were asked
to meet with Harris in judge's chambers, along with the attorneys
for the prosecution, so that arrangements could be made for the next
status hearing for both Harris brothers.
The brothers are being tried separately, but to date their court
appearances have run on the same day. While the issue with Elmore
was being considered and new attorneys being sought out, Jason
Harris' case had also been put on hold. When the two brothers come
to trial, Christopher is expected to be the first tried.
When the issue with Elmore came to light in January, Jason Harris
was offered the opportunity to continue moving forward in his status
hearings. Attorney Steven Skelton declined, saying that
because Christopher should be tried first, he would prefer to
continue in the same manner as they have been.
[By NILA SMITH]