State of Missouri v. George B. Harris

870 S.W.2d 798 (Mo.banc 1994)

George Bernard Harris was executed on September 13, 2000.

Case Facts
: George Bernard “Baby” Harris hit a lucky streak on the morning of March 11, 1989. He won some money shooting craps. In fact, he won enough money that people noticed it and figured he had a little to spare. A man who needed money asked Harris to let him “pawn” two machine guns, an Uzi and a .45 caliber Thompson automatic machine gun. Harris agreed, gave the man $500 in return for the machine guns and took them to the trunk of his car.

Harris walked back toward the crap game, worried that someone would steal the guns from his car. When he saw Michael Taylor, he asked Taylor if he would keep the machine guns for him. When Taylor agreed, Harris followed Taylor to Taylor’s house with Rodney Butler, Ross Talliferro and Stanley “Hank” Willoughby. When Harris arrived, Taylor asked Willoughby to come down to Harris’ car. Harris spoke to Willoughby, removed a box containing the machine guns from the trunk and handed it to Willoughby. Willoughby walked toward the house with the weapons. Rodney Butler, who was sitting on the porch, asked Willoughby not to bring the guns in the house. Willoughby handed the box containing the machine guns to Cortez and Anthony Taylor, Michael Taylor’s younger brothers. Willoughby told the boys to hide the guns somewhere near the house. Harris left. Cortez and Anthony took the box from Willoughby and hid it under some bushes in the backyard. The young Taylors left without telling Willoughby where they hid the guns.

At about 8:00 p.m., Harris returned looking for Michael Taylor. Butler answered the door and indicated that Taylor was upstairs sleeping. Harris went upstairs and told Taylor he had come to pick up the guns. When Taylor told him that he did not know where the guns were, Harris insisted that he needed them right away. At some point during the day Harris had suffered the grave injustice of being called a “punk” and told Taylor that he was going to do a “drive-by” shooting to show “them” that he was not a punk. Taylor told Harris to ask Willoughby about the machine guns when Willoughby returned from “picking up some girls.”

Harris went downstairs. Taylor stayed in bed. Some time later, Harris yelled for Michael Taylor to come downstairs. When Taylor came down, he found Harris and several other people downstairs including Willoughby, Ross Tilliferro, Delmar Hatcher, Deonna Jacobs, and “Ingrid” and Jarlath Potts.

Harris asked Taylor for his guns. Taylor again told Harris to ask Willoughby. Willoughby explained that he did not know where the guns were because Anthony and Cortez Taylor had hidden them. Harris insisted that he wanted his guns and that he wanted them now. Willoughby went outside to look for the guns. Harris was heard to say, “I’m going to kill that nigger.” Talliferro, Hatcher, and the two girls went upstairs. Five minutes later, Willoughby returned without the guns. Butler left to look for them.

At this point, there were only three people remaining on the living room area: Michael Taylor, George Harris, and Hank Willoughby. Willoughby told Harris that if he wanted his guns, he would have to wait until Anthony and Cortex came back. Harris insisted on getting his guns right away. Willoughby said, “Well, I can’t help you.” Harris got up from the chair and pulled a .41 caliber Rugar Blackhawk magnum revolver from his waistband, and shot the victim in the lower face and neck. The bullet passed through Willoughby’s carotid artery. Willoughby staggered next door to Michael Taylor’s house and collapsed on the steps. A few minutes later, the police and ambulance were called. Meanwhile, Butler returned with the guns and placed them on the porch and ran inside.

Harris took the guns and drove away, ultimately making his way to Sabrina Lowe’s apartment. From there, Harris and Lowe went to the Champagne Lounge looking for a man named “Rudi”. Harris told Lowe he intended to kill Rudi and had bought the machine guns for that purpose.

Willoughby died before he reached the hospital.

Law enforcement arrested Harris in Columbia, Missouri on March 15, 1989, after Harris and others had committed on armed robbery there.

George Harris was born on February 9, 1959 in Newport, Arkansas.

Legal Chronology:

On February 26, 1976 Harris was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri for Robbery First Degree. In September, 1976, Harris was sentenced to eight years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

On March 19, 1982, Harris was arrested in Columbia, Missouri, for a Murder First Degree charge from the incident that occurred on March 11, 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri. On February 12, 1990, Harris was convicted of Murder First Degree and sentenced to death.

On April 26, 1989, Harris was arrested in Columbia, Missouri, for Robbery First Degree and Armed Criminal Action. On October 2, 1989, Harris was sentenced to twelve and three year concurrent sentences in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

3/11–George Harris murders Stanly “Hank” Willoughby in Kansas City, Missouri
3/22–Harris was indicted on one count of Murder First Degree and one count of Armed Criminal Action in the Jackson County Circuit Court.

2/5 –Harris’ trial begins in the Jackson County Circuit Court
2/10–The jury finds Harris guilty of Murder First Degree
2/12–The jury returned a sentence of death for the murder of Stanley Willoughby.
7/30–Harris is sentenced to death by the circuit court judge.
12/5–Harris files a motion for post conviction relief.

1/15–The Jackson County Circuit Court denied Harris’ motion for post conviction relief.
2/22–The Missouri State Supreme Court affirmed Harris’ motion for post conviction relief.

10/17–The United State Supreme Court affirmed Harris’ judgment of conviction and sentence and affirmed the denial of Harris’ post conviction relief motion.
10/28–Harris filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United State District court for the Western District of Missouri.

11/11–The United State District court denied Harris’ petition for federal habeas relief.

7/13–The United States District Court denied Harris’ petition for federal habeas relief.
8/31–The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied Harris’ motion for rehearing and suggestions for en banc review.

1/10–The United States Supreme Court declined to review Harris’ habeas petition.
2/14–The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denies motion to recall the mandate.
3/23–The United States District Court denies Harris’ motion for relief from judgment.
5/9–The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denies motion for rehearing or rehearing en banc.
8/14–The Missouri State Supreme Court issues order and warrant of execution setting September 13, 2000, as Harris’ execution date.