Published Wednesday, July 21, 1999,
in the Akron Beacon Journal
Harris gets new team of lawyers
Substitute counsel will handle convicted youth's appeal on pro bono basis

Beacon Journal staff writer

The appeal of Anthony Harris, the 13-year-old boy convicted of stabbing to death his 5-year-old neighbor last summer, will be handled by a new legal team, prompted in part by the national attention the case is receiving.

One of the two new defense attorneys is a former federal prosecutor who helped convict Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols.

Attorneys Daniel R. Warren and Geoffrey Mearns, both from the Cleveland firm of Thompson, Hine & Flory, have agreed to represent Harris pro bono.

Warren filed yesterday as substitute council in the case. Mearns, who was involved with the Nichols' case, still has to file.

In question on appeal is Harris' confession, which his trial attorneys have and will continue to maintain was coerced.

The new attorneys joined the case ``because of the serious and important issues regarding juvenile justice,'' Warren said. ``We think the case raises important issues about the way children are regarded in the criminal justice system.''

On Monday, a judge in Chicago threw out an alleged confession by a 10-year-old boy accused of killing his foster brother, saying the youth could not have understood his Miranda rights.

The judge said she was concerned because the 10-year-old answered only ``yes'' after being read each of his rights, but was not asked to explain the meaning of his rights to demonstrate that he understood them.

Harris, who was 12 at the time of Devan Duniver's killing, was convicted March 10 of the murder. The two were neighbors in a New Philadelphia apartment complex. Since there are no jury trials for juveniles in Ohio, Tuscarawas County Juvenile Court Judge Linda A. Kate alone decided his fate. He is in the custody of the Department of Youth Services until age 21.

ABC News' 20/20 devoted half of an hourlong show to the case last month, and a Web site (Save Anthony) and legal defense fund have been established to support Harris.

Steven Drizin, a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, contacted the attorneys to join Harris' appeal. Drizin said for the last year, he has been tracking false confession cases of children. There have been several in Chicago, including two boys 7- and 8-years-old who were
charged with the murder of an 11-year-old, but the charges were later dropped.

``The case is important because we've seen a number of confessions taken from young children that are questionable,'' Drizin said of the Harris case. ``And we're seeing that when police officers use the high pressured interrogation tactics that are legal when used with adults on children, they can produce false confessions.''

The transcript of Harris' six-week trial in Tuscarawas County Juvenile Court is due on Aug. 5. After that, the defense has 20 days to write the appeal.

Michael Puterbaugh, the lawyer appointed to handle the appeal, said he doesn't feel slighted by Harris or his mother, Cyndi, for substituting counsel.

``She's got to do what's in the best interest of her son,'' he said.

Innocent Imprisoned
Truth in Justice