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Key witness in Clark trial faces intense scrutiny over credibility

5:40 PM, Mar 2, 2010   |    comments
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"Who did you see shooting into that limousine?" Denver prosecutor Tim Twining asked during day six of testimony in the Clark trial.

"Willie Clark," Daniel Harris replied. Harris says he was in the car with Clark when the shots were fired.

"The man seated there?" Twining said, as he pointed at Clark at the defense table.

"Yes," Harris said.

"You certain?" Twining said.

"100 percent," Harris replied.

Harris is part of the federal witness protection program. He is also in prison facing 10 years to a potential life sentence on an unrelated drug case. There is a catch, however. Should Harris testify "truthfully" during this trial federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence that could allow Harris to walk free within two or two-and-a-half years.

It is an issue Clark's defense team spent hours trying to exploit on Tuesday, day two of Harris's testimony.

"If you get what you expect (as part of this deal), you're going to be out in the community after that?" defense attorney Darren Cantor asked.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Harris replied.

"...if you get what you expect?" Cantor said.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Harris said.

Cantor, during opening statements, told the jury he believes Harris was one of the shooters that night, not Clark. Clark, he told the jury, was somewhere else and not in the car that drove up alongside the limousine.

Cantor believes Harris is only telling the jury what prosecutors want Harris to say. Harris' testimony is considered key because Harris, to date, has provided the only testimony at trial that directly attempts to implicate Clark.

If the jury ends up believing Harris, it could be devastating to Clark's defense. On the other side, if the jury has serious doubts about Harris's credibility, jurors could struggle with the lack of first-hand accounts of the actual crime.

Harris fled to Playa del Carmen shortly after the shootings. He says he did so to avoid being unfairly implicated in the crime. He also says he did so because of safety issues.

Clark's defense showed the jury four pictures of Harris while he was in Mexico, where it appeared Harris was enjoying his time there. Two of the pictures showed Harris smiling with bikini-clad women.

Tuesday afternoon, another witness who has been offered a deal by federal prosecutors took the stand.

Veronica Garcia, a one-time friend of Clark's, told the jury Clark was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he went out to celebrate on New Years Eve 2006. She also told the jury that Clark went out that night with a white Tahoe, the same kind of car the driver of the limo reported seeing leaving the scene immediately after the shooting.

Garcia also old the jury Clark asked her to provide him with an alibi.

"'If anyone asks where I was, tell them I was with you,'" Garcia said, using the words she said Clark told her.

Garcia is a three-time felon who agreed to testify in this case as part of a plea deal on a federal drug case with federal prosecutors. The deal required her to "testify truthfully" during the Clark trial.

The trial is now likely to go into a third week.

(Editor's Note: The photo of Daniel Harris used in this story is three years old and was not provided by the court. Harris, in the words of Judge Christina Habbas, looks considerably different now. For that reason, and because the old picture has already been widely distributed, 9NEWS feels comfortable using it.)

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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