February 27th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
I recently did several pieces on the outrageous case in Canada of Michael Ryan. He’s the one whose wife got upset that he was leaving her so she tried to hire a hit man to kill him. The first one refused, a second put her in touch with a third who just happened to be a police officer. The police caught her on videotape finalizing the deal – $25,000 for her husband’s life. On tape the officer asked her if Michael had ever beaten her, and she said “no.” Add to that the fact that, in their 15-year marriage, she’d never complained to anyone about abuse by Michael. So it surprised everyone that the trial court and ultimately the Supreme Court let her go. The trial court acquitted her claiming that Michael was an abuser and that Nicole had no way out of their marriage but to have him murdered. The Supreme Court reversed that patent nonsense but stayed further proceedings because Nicole had “suffered enough.”
In the process of debunking the trial court’s obviously flawed “reasoning” on Nicole’s defense of “duress,” I mentioned in passing that, had her plan been successful and Michael been killed, the court would have ruled the same. After all, not one word of Justice David Farrar’s decision would have been different if Micheal were dead. Plainly false claims of abuse were used to absolve Nicole of responsibility for solicitation of murder, so why would a successful murder have resulted in a different ruling? Clearly, it would not have.
That brings us to our current case reported on here (Mountain Democrat, 1/9/13).
Back in 1985, Colleen Ann Batten shot her husband James Batten in the side, then moved into a better position and shot him in the heart. She was acquitted of the charge of murder. Why? She claimed James was a violent man who sexually abused their daughter over many years. The only trouble was that, Colleen, having once reported his abuse of the girl to police, then had the charges dropped. So how was it that those same offenses justified her murder of the man? And, by the time Colleen filed the charges, the daughter was 21 years old, but she went along with dropping the charges because both women “wanted to keep the family together.” Where was the evidence of abuse? Given the opportunity, both Colleen and her daughter elected not to produce it.
With all due respect, that sounds utterly bogus to me. Two adults drop child rape charges against a man so they can keep the family together and then one of them kills him in cold blood? I’m not buying it. The simple fact is that James Batten had filed for divorce and kicked Colleen out of the house shortly before she shot him. If you want the real reason for his murder, that’s it. Indeed, at her trial, Colleen didn’t even rely on whatever claims she may have concocted about James Batten’s supposed brutality. She was charged with murder, but testified that she couldn’t remember shooting the man. A psychologist agreed, so the state had no evidence of her guilty state of mind, a requirement for conviction. Her attorney explained:
“Because she had no recollection, the prosecution could not even cross-examine her on what her thoughts were, or what she did, and so forth, so they had a real problem establishing a mental state of mind, which is malice aforethought,” Weiner was quoted saying in a June 30, 2003 article. “After the psychologist testified (that) she suffered from amnesia, the prosecution was pretty much left without the ability to prove anything more than manslaughter.”
It seems the idiot prosecutor neglected to charge her with the lesser offense of manslaughter, so Colleen was free to kill again. And kill she did. Like Batten, she shot her third husband, Robert Harris with a shotgun while he was in bed. She did so on the same street, Wilderness Way in Lake Tahoe, that she committed her first killing. And of course she’s using the same defense – that the dead man was abusive to her. This time however, it turns out that he was beloved and admired by many people. Here’s what one commenter said:
I was a high school classmate of Bob and had met Colleen many times at Tahoe. On behalf of the entire Tahoe Community (and Bob was extremely well known and respected professional Forest Service supervisor), we are saddened by his demise, especially the way his life ended. He was a kind and gentle individual who was always concerned more about others than himself. His involvement in TBI and his umpiring inspired others to follow in his volunteer efforts. His legacy will remain in Tahoe for generations.
Another commenter has some words that the judge in Nicole Ryan’s case, David Farrar, should read carefully and take to heart.
Apparently, Colleen Harris is taking a familiar road in her defense for murdering her husband. I understand many, perhaps most families have issues which the “outside world” may or may not be aware. Perhaps her allegations of abuse are true. Personally – if asked – I would gladly appear as a character witness for Bob at Colleen’s trial. I do not believe her allegations of abuse. Period. I understand the law and I realize she is presumed innocent. SHOULD I BE PROVED WRONG IN MY JUDGEMENT I will be at the front of the line offering my apologizes to both her and to the world for what I am about to write next. For me to formally apologize – I will first expect to see all of the police reports filed by Colleen Harris of Bob’s physical or emotional abuse. I also expect to see the hospital pictures and dates and times and treatments of Bob’s physical abuse upon Colleen. I expect to hear from ALL of Colleen’s mental health counselors regarding Bob’s emotional abuse. I most especially want to hear a cogent explanation from the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department as to WHY they would allow a wife abusing guy like Bob Harris to volunteer with their department for so many years! I also want to, and expect to hear from Colleen. I want to know of ALL the options she (and presumably Bob) exhausted before Colleen made the decision to murder Bob. I recently read they had filed for divorce in 2004 and then they reconciled. Thus, I want to hear Colleen Harris testify as to WHY she would agree to reconcile with her husband after he had been (presumably) physically and emotionally abusing her. Why would anyone purposefully put themselves in a that very dangerous situation? Especially, and not to be taken lightly, when considering their ages. These were not crazed young lovers… Frankly, I believe Colleen Harris is either mentally ill or she is evil. Based on the information I’ve read thus far it appears Colleen believes she has ( or had ) the right to play judge, jury and executioner of those she determined deserved the death penalty.
Someone should explain to judges that murder and attempted murder – even that of a husband by a wife – are serious crimes. Wives shouldn’t be let off because they felt upset with the guys or even because they were abusive, if they were. Judges like Farrar should show the same native common sense that ordinary people do. Once they do, wives will learn that false claims of abuse aren’t the short, easy way out of a murder rap.
We’ll see what happens to Colleen Harris, but my guess is that, one dead man too late, folks have had enough of her crying “abuse.”