Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office on Thursday (Feb. 14) secured a new murder indictment against a New Orleans woman accused of inflicting fatal injuries upon her toddler daughter in 2013.
Michelle Harris, 34, is charged with the second-degree murder of Zion Harris in the indictment handed up by an Orleans Parish grand jury. The girl was 23 months old when she died from blunt-force trauma injuries, including a lacerated liver and kidney, the Orleans Parish Coroner’s office said.
“Through the course of the investigation, detectives learned that Harris struck her daughter after she did not listen to her,” an NOPD spokesman said when announcing the woman’s arrest on Sept. 25, 2013, one day after the child died. A sister of the young victim told investigators that Zion had been “kicked and whipped” by her mother hours before her death.
Ad hoc Criminal District Judge Dennis Waldron issued a no-bond capias for her arrest after the indictment was read. Criminal District Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier ordered Harris freed from custody last September.
Harris delayed proceedings by changing lawyers three times while in custody, then helped in scrapping most of her eight previous trial dates. Court records show continuances of trial dates were granted to the defense twice, to the defense and state jointly three times, and prompted by the court once.
Harris waited nearly five years before filing a motion for speedy trial last May, triggering a 120-day deadline for trial to begin on her original indictment. When the state made its first request for a continuance last Aug. 20 because a critical witness had not been located for his subpoena, the request was denied by the judge and prosecutors were forced temporarily to dismiss the case.
The case was reinstituted last fall, but the necessary witness still could not be located for subpoena service before the scheduled Nov. 13 trial date. Judge Flemings-Davillier again denied a state continuance request, forcing another temporary dismissal of the case.
“As indicated last November, we have not forgotten this defenseless young victim, nor will we allow her killer to escape responsibility for her cruel and abusive conduct,” Cannizzaro said. “We will secure this witness, the jury will hear critical testimony and we are confident that we will bring justice for little Zion.”
Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli presented the case to the grand jury.
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