The evidence surrounding the death of 81-year-old Lu Harris was supposed to be the strongest case Dallas County prosecutors had against suspected serial killer Billy Chemirmir, yet the case ended in a mistrial with the jury deadlocked 11-to-1.
Chemirmir is charged with killing 18 older women across Dallas and Collin counties, though police investigations and lawsuits allege he's killed even more people. Prosecutors say he smothered his victims to steal jewelry.
Dallas County District Attorney Joe Creuzot announced immediately after the mistrial his office would retry the case, though there’s no clear timetable on how soon that could occur.
Cruezot said each side must receive trial transcripts and schedules must be coordinated.
Former Dallas County prosecutor and criminal defense attorney Russell Wilson said while a bit surprised with how the Chemirmir trial ended, you never truly know what a jury will do.
“You never know what will or will not influence a group of 12 individuals that you don’t really know,” Wilson said.
Speaking on behalf of the families of alleged victims, Ellen French House, who lost her mother Norma, said the group was in total shock with the one juror holdout after hearing four days of compelling evidence.
"We are devastated," House said. "We don't know how it happened."
Due to COVID-19 policies, families of loved ones were kept out of the courtroom, something they hope changes in the next trial.
“It was the wrong thing to do,” said Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Cliff Harris, who lost his mother Miriam Nelson. “We would have had a much better chance. We would have won this hands down.”
Wilson said there is no doubt having a jury see families in the courtroom plays a factor.
“Regardless of what the verdict is in any case, generally there is some compassion extended to anyone when there’s a loss in their family,” Wilson said. “There’s no doubt that it plays a role.”
While prosecutors presented four days of surveillance video, physical evidence and cell phone records they believed tied Chemirmir to the crime, defense attorneys argued there was no DNA or fingerprints in the case.
“It’s certainly a smart move by the defense to point out some of those things and say those aren’t present in this case,” Wilson said.
During a September interview with NBC5, the sons of Carolyn MacPhee said there is DNA evidence in their mother’s case.
The MacPhees said Chemirmir sometimes cared for their late father as a home health aide, then months after his death returned on New Year’s Eve 2017 to kill their mother at her Plano home.
The brothers said police told them blood found on a pair of eyeglasses and their mother’s comforter belonged to Chemirmir.
The MacPhees case is one of the five murder indictments Collin County has against Billy Chemirmir.
Families are now pushing for the Collin County district attorney to move forward with their cases, regardless of what's happening in Dallas County. Collin County officials said they would not comment on pending cases.
Though devastated by the mistrial, families said they were not deterred and felt confident the next trial would end differently.
“We are encouraged that the prosecutors will try this case again and we are confident that the jury will convict,” Ellen French House said.
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