Associated Press

Hung jury in 3rd trial in '96 NY double killing

March 10, 2011

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A mistrial was declared Thursday after the jury deadlocked in the third trial of a man accused of killing a 79-year-old millionaire and his health care aide in 1996.

The Westchester district attorney's office said Selwyn Days, 44, who has been in prison for 10 years, will be tried yet again, although the jury said it was split 9-3 for acquittal.

"Of course the case will be retried," said spokesman Lucian Chalfen. "This is a double murder."

Defense attorney Glenn Garber said, "We will stand by our client until the end, until he is exonerated."

Days is charged with the killings of Archie Harris and Betty Ramcharan, 35, at Harris' home in Eastchester, 16 miles north of New York City.

There was no DNA or fingerprint evidence pointing to him, but Days confessed, then recanted. His lawyers claimed the confession was coerced.

Days' mother had once worked as Harris' aide, and prosecutors said Days went to Harris' home to confront him about allegedly sexually abusing her. In his confession, parts of which were recorded and played for the jury, Days said he stabbed Harris with a kitchen knife after Harris called him a racial slur and swung a bat at him. He said he attacked Ramcharan when she happened upon the scene.

Days wasn't arrested until five years after the killings, when an ex-girlfriend reported to police that he had told her, "I killed two people and got away with it." But at the latest trial, she claimed she was ill and couldn't remember what he told her.

Days' first trial ended with a hung jury in 2003. He was found guilty in 2004 and sentenced to at least 50 years behind bars, but that conviction was overturned by a judge who said the defense should have called alibi witnesses.

Days' case was taken up by the Exoneration Initiative, which examines claims of wrongful convictions in cases without DNA evidence. At the latest trial, new witnesses testified that Days was in North Carolina at the time of the killings.

Police said Harris was bashed to death with a baseball bat and Ramcharan's throat was cut. Shortly after the killings, investigators learned that Harris had made Ramcharan the major beneficiary of his $1.6 million estate. But because she died with him, the estate went to his grown children.

Days' first defense lawyer told the jury that Ramcharan had killed Harris and herself.

New defense lawyer Roberto Finzi told the jury, "The best scientific evidence cannot put Selwyn Days within 500 miles of that crime scene." He also said the confession was coerced after 17 hours in police custody. But prosecutor Perry Perrone said the confession got too many details right to be made up.

When Days was sentenced in 2004 to 50 years to life in prison, he told the judge, "I didn't commit this crime. I don't know who did. ... They convicted an innocent man."

But the judge said, "You beat an elderly man to death and when a witness appeared on the scene, you slaughtered her. I simply don't believe you deserve 10 seconds less than the maximum punishment."

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