A murder trial recently concluded in Texas wherein a woman who killed her husband was defended by the husband's own mother, brother and father, who explained that, aside from what might be described as some unpleasantness on a bad day, the woman is really a good, law-abiding person.
The press on both the left and the right has poured derision upon the murder victim, referring to David Harris as a "creep," a "rat," a "a lying, cheating scumbag" and Clara Harris' "unfaithful dog of a husband." Feminist Susan Estrich asked "Who could blame [Clara] for getting into her Mercedes and running him over?" and seemed a little sad that the jury did. She fantasized a Cochranesque defense for her, noting:
"Every day across America, women crowd into the offices of plastic surgeons and beauticians and aestheticians, spending money we don't have on painful procedures we don't really need, trying to hang on to men who don't deserve us...with their votes, the Harris jury could have sent a shot across the bow to all those cheating men. If you cheat on your wife, she can kill you and get away with it. If he deserved to get hit, you must acquit."
Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily, penned a column entitled "Free Clara Harris!" in which he wrote "I'd give her a medal....she did the right thing. That creep deserved what he got" and urged readers to "live like her." John Kasich, guest host on The O'Reilly Factor, also expressed sympathy for Clara who, he claimed, had been "mentally tortured" by her husband.
On the radio and the Internet many observers expressed similar sentiments, such as: "If at first you don't succeed, run over him again"; "I feel much compassion for Clara but absolutely none for her husband the victim..[heís] not worth killing"; and, of course, "You play, you pay."
Even the prosecutor, Mia Magness, apparently quibbles with the killer only over her choice of methods, expressing a preference that, instead of killing David by her own hand, she should have driven him to suicide by divorcing him and "[doing] like every other woman...get his house, car, kids -- make him wish he were dead."
In Shakespeareís tragedy King Lear, Lear is abandoned by his family with the exception of one loyal daughter, Cordelia. In the Texas tragedy David Harris has been abandoned by his family except for his loyal daughter Lindsey, who loved her father and begged her stepmother not to kill him. The murder of her father and the betrayals of her grandmother, grandfather and uncle have exacted a high toll on her, driving her to four suicide attempts in the past six months.
What did David Harris do to deserve this cruel fate? He had an affair. As Shakespeareís Marc Antony said of the fallen Caesarís "ambition," Davidís infidelity was "a grievous fault--and grievously hath he answered it."
It goes without saying that were the genders reversed few would be talking about infidelity as a justification for murder. Imagine a woman trapped in a loveless marriage with a jealous, potentially violent husband whom she believes may be cheating on her. She stays in the marriage because she fears she could be separated from her children should they divorce, and finds understanding, companionship and passion in a relationship with a coworker. Her husband finds out about the affair and goes on a violent, jealous rampage, slaughtering her in front of her daughter as the daughter begs him not to kill her mother.
There would be no tears or excuses proffered for the killer, and he would be just one more murderer sitting on Texasí death row. The public would view the womanís affair as a sad, desperate attempt to gain some comfort in the hellish life her brute of a husband had imposed on her. The mere mention of the fact that his wife had been cheating on him as an excuse for murder would be correctly denounced by feminists, who would also express outrage at the murdererís "blame the victim" defense.
Listening to the public and media reaction to the Harris case one would imagine that infidelity were a vice owned exclusively by the male of the human species. In reality, research estimates that for every five unfaithful husbands, there are four unfaithful wives. According to the American Association of Blood Banks, of the nearly 300,000 cases evaluated each year in the United States, roughly 30% exclude the tested individual as the biological father of the children. Even blood typing examinations taken decades ago showed that at a bare minimum 10% of the fathers who signed their babies' birth certificates were unknowingly claiming paternity of children who weren't theirs.
Unlike her husband, Clara is alive to spin her version of the events and naturally portrays herself as the loyal, devoted wife of a man who betrayed her. However, upon closer examination the evidence is overwhelming that the bad spouse in this marriage was Clara, not David.
David's daughter, Lindsey, says that her father had the affair in part because of the way Clara mistreated and neglected him. According to her testimony, David told his daughter on many occasions how lonely he felt. Lindsey also testified that her stepmother Clara made her feel unimportant and as if she were not part of the family, and that the only place where pictures of her were allowed in the home were in her fatherís bathroom. By contrast, pictures of the twins (the children Clara and David had together) dominated the house. Lindsey also testified that Clara had physically assaulted David on at least one prior occasion.
According to testimony by a detective at Blue Moon Investigations, the private detective agency which Clara had hired to spy on David, when Clara first came to the agency for help she described her husband as a "good man" who had fallen into the "trap" set by his coworker Gail Bridges, a "deceitful woman." Clara told the detective that her own neglect of David was the cause of his affair.
A vice president for Blue Moon Investigators told the court in November that she had conducted an investigation of Clara and presented several audio tapes on which, according to the news department of a Houston television station, "witnesses claim that Clara Harris was also having an affair before her husband died" [emphasis added].
Clara also lies, as evidenced by her preposterous courtroom claim that she didn't know she was running over her husband, despite a video which shows her repeatedly circling and running him down with her Mercedes.
Most importantly, David Harris was married to a person capable of killing an unarmed man as the man's daughter begged her not to kill her father. While we'll never know exactly what happened between David and Clara behind closed doors, can there be any doubt that a person capable of such a heinous crime was not exactly the perfect spouse? That David probably had good reason to distrust or dislike her and seek the affections of another? That somewhere along the line it might have been Clara's um......personality that might have created the problem?
One of the main clubs used against David Harris is the conversation he had with Clara at an airport hotel bar on July 18 in which he allegedly listed the reasons he preferred Bridges over Clara. According to Clara, these reasons included the fact that Clara made negative, pessimistic comments, was loud and dominated conversations, and that David found Bridges more physically attractive than Clara. Many have cited this as evidence of what a cad and a creep David was. Yet few husbands would have the courage to speak to their wives about their wivesí physical appearance in the way Clara claims, particularly to a jealous, violent wife like her. It is extremely likely that David broached these subjects with Clara only under direct pressure from her. I imagine the barroom conversation/interrogation went something like this:
Clara: Tell me how she is better than me. Tell me why you prefer her.
David: I donít want to talk about it.
Clara: Tell me. Thatís the least you can do.
David: I said I donít want to talk about it. You two are two different people.
Clara: How are we different, I want to know. Tell me why she is better than me (pounds fist on table). Tell me.
David: (Sighs) Well, she is less.....vocal. She listens more. Sheís not so...negative, pessimistic.
Clara: (Ignoring Davidís comments) Itís her looks, isn't it? Itís got to be her looks. Tell me about her looks.
David: I donít want to talk about it. Itís got nothing to do with her looks. I like her because sheís nice to me...
Clara: I demand to know about her looks.
David: Itís not her looks...
Clara: Tell me about her looks. I deserve to know.
David: (Sighs) Well, she is (quivers)......well, she is...(quivers again)...thinner than you, just a little bit honey, just a little bit....
Clara: And? And?
David: (Still quivering) Nothing. Thatís all.
Clara: No it isnít. What about her breasts? Is it her breasts? What are her breasts like?
David: (Head swivels, looks around in every direction for a waiter) Clara, please...
Clara: What are her breasts like?
David: (Sighs) Her breasts are... (quivers)....are.... nice
Clara: Nice! Nice! How nice? What are they like? Describe them to me....
Clara, the appearance-obsessed former beauty queen, was probably capable of seeing her and David's problems only in terms of her looks and focused on this instead of Davidís real message, which was that Claraís neglect and personality were the cause of the problem. Many have used the conversation as an excuse to speak of David's affair as if he were carrying on with a 19 year-old cheerleader. In reality, Bridges is only a few years younger than Clara and is the mother of three children. Since she was also a coworker, odds are that David looked to her at least as much for companionship as for sex.
Why did David stay? Probably because of his young twin boys. He probably knew that in a divorce he had little chance of winning even shared custody of his children and that it is common for custodial mothers to block noncustodial fathers' access and visitation to their children. He almost certainly knew that Clara was just the type of vengeful person who would do such a thing.
Despite Clara's attempt to save herself from justice by maligning her dead husband, there is no evidence that David Harris was anything worse than a fallible human being who was caught in a difficult situation. By all estimations he was a good father, a good provider and a good husband for the vast majority of his and Clara's 10 year marriage. The fact that this flawed but decent man could be slaughtered and then vilified for his one comparatively minor transgression speaks volumes about our societyís noxious mix of anti-male feminism and anti-male male chivalry. The product of this witches' brew is a sick cultural norm where, in any conflict between a man and a woman, the man is always wrong.
This column first appeared on LewRockwell.com (3/4/03)
Glenn Sacks is a men's and fathers' issues columnist and a . His columns have appeared in dozens of America's largest newspapers.
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