ANDERSON — Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Koester told jurors during opening statements on Monday that Jennifer Harris betrayed the sanctity of motherhood by failing to protect her son Harlan Haines and that her former boyfriend, who was convicted of murder, neglect and molestation of the child, will testify in the case.
Harris, 29, is on trial for Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in the death of her 18-month-old son Harlan and Level 5 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury.
Koester said authorities may never know who struck the final blows that ended Harlan’s life, but Harris “had a hand in his ultimate demise.”
“At the very least she did not protect that child,” Koester said.
Outlining the same evidence used to convict Harris’ former boyfriend Dylan Tate of murder and life without parole, Koester told jurors the toddler was beaten, tortured, molested and murdered by the couple who came home to drink a bottle of whiskey and use drugs.
Tate attempted to cover the death and injuries inflicted on Harlan by crashing his car into a pole on Feb. 23, before taking the child to the emergency room.
Koester told jurors Harlan’s body temperature, however, showed the “baby had been dead for awhile.”
At the hospital, a doctor removed a brown paper towel from the back of Harlan’s mouth that was obstructing his airway. Harlan was revived, but was pronounced brain-dead two days after Tate took him to the hospital and was taken off life support.
Koester described the bite marks, cigarette burns and bruising — in various states of healing — that covered Harlan’s body when he was brought into the hospital. He also told jurors that when Harris was told her child was involved in an accident and told to go to the police station for questioning, she never demanded to go see her baby.
She also did not want to ride in the ambulance with Harlan to Indianapolis because she wanted to go home first, Koester said.
“Is that what a mother does?,” he asked the jurors.
Harris testified against Tate during his murder trial and Koester said, while Tate’s credibility is “dubious at best,” he is scheduled to testify.
Harris is also charged with neglect of a dependent for a spiral broken leg and bruising on Harlan’s eyes on Dec. 27, almost two months before his death. He was treated at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, and Koester said Harris told authorities the injury occurred when a plastic Christmas tree on a table fell on the toddler while he was in his portable crib.
Defense attorney John Reeder spoke briefly to the jurors during his opening statement.
“Evidence will show horrible atrocities to Harlan Haines, but not from Jennifer,” he said.
Harris’ trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday in Madison Circuit Court 1, before Judge Angela Warner Sims.