PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – The foreman on the jury that acquitted an El Dorado County woman of murdering her husband in 1985 stood by that decision in an interview with CBS13 on Tuesday even though she’s accused of doing it again.
When we called the jury foreman, Paul Laufman, he had no idea that the same woman acquitted of murder almost 30 years ago was arrested again, accused of committing the same crime, killing another husband, in the same house, using the same method – a shotgun.
“That’s gut-wrenching because that person may be alive if we had rendered a different verdict,” he told CBS13’s Laura Cole.
Laufman remembers the 1986 murder trial of Colleen Harris, Colleen Batten at the time, very vividly.
Did she seem like a killer?
“No, she didn’t to most of us,” he said. “She seemed very engaging with people.”
Harris, then 43, was on trial for murdering her husband James Batten.
“When we would be escorted to lunch somewhere in Placerville, when we came back she was standing at the door smiling at us as we came in and it looked cordial,” Laufman recalled.
The trial lasted three weeks. Jurors listened as Harris relived what she said she remembered about that night in question, and she didn’t offer much. Her defense argued that she suffered from limited amnesia.
“We had some misgivings,” Laufman said. “Our only option was first degree or free, acquittal.”
Laufman said after a day and a half of deliberations he and his peers ultimately believed Harris killed her husband in self-defense.
But did had they actually let a killer go free?
“Well, of course you have to think about that,” he said. “But on balance you have to say are we sending an innocent party to jail and premeditation simply was not proved.”
Laufman doesn’t feel he made a mistake in her first murder case, but of course, he can’t help but have mixed feelings now that she’s accused of murdering another husband, Robert Harris, 72.
“Well, it saddens me, it saddens me, and you think, ‘Well, would that person be alive if we had found her guilty?’ and the answer is probably yes,” he said. “If 30 years ago that was an act, it was a very good act.”
Another homicide, another husband, nearly three decades later.
“To me, this is a little too convenient,” he said.