Court Security

Jailed for murder until at least 2033, woman 'almost got out' before fake court order was detected

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Convicted in 2009 of murdering her lover and burying him in his back yard three years earlier, Kwaneta Yatrice Harris was sentenced to a 50-year prison term and scheduled to be considered for parole in 2033.

But the Texas inmate, whose case has been “like a movie,” came very close to getting out this year thanks to phony court paperwork, a lawyer who prosecuted her tells the Dallas Morning News.

After somehow obtaining the right form and forging a judge’s signature on an order reducing her sentence to eight years, “she almost got out,” said Josh Healy, now a criminal defense attorney, of Harris.

The reduced sentence could have qualified Harris, now 43, for immediate parole. But somehow the Texas Department of Criminal Justice became suspicious of the fake document, contacted Dallas County to check its accuracy and the jig was up. She is now being held in a higher-security setting.

Before her conviction, Harris, who was a licensed nurse, employed a number of ruses to try to avoid detection and profit from the crime, the newspaper reports. They included paying others to dig a large grave, under the guise of constructing a pond; hiring another contractor to pour a concrete slab over it; and impersonating the victim, 46-year-old Air Force retiree Michael Giles.

Prosecutors said Harris herself sent emails and texts to his family, explaining that he was out of state for a while, then bandaged her new boyfriend and had him pretend to be Giles, supposedly recovering from a car accident, in an effort to gain access to his accounts.

After she was arrested and out on bond she paid a teen to confess, falsely, that he had shot Giles to death, but the government didn’t buy it.

“It’s the craziest case I ever tried in my life,” Healy told the newspaper.

An earlier Dallas Morning News story provides more details about the case.

See also: “Prosecutor calls bogus court papers used in murderers’ prison escape an ‘ongoing threat’” “7 prisoners may have used phony court papers in escape attempts; $20K reward offered for information” “Prison gang helped escapees get fake court orders granting early release, official says”

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