Sunday, November 8, 2009

NYC incest victim gets 5 - 15 for castration death of father, her abuser

An incest victim was sentenced to 5-15 years in prison Friday for cutting off her father (and perp's) penis while he bled to death. Brigitte Harris was convicted of 2nd manslaughter after a two week trial. Jurors acquitted her of 2nd degree murder and 1st degree manslaughter charges after 3 hours of deliberation on September 30. Judge Arthur Cooperman, who presided over the trial in Queens Supreme Court, sentenced Harris. Harris was beaten and raped by her father, a Liberian citizen, since she was 3.

Ms. Harris, 28, contends that she did not intend to kill her father, 55-year-old St. George [Staten Island]resident Eric Goodridge, after luring him to her Far Rockaway [Queens] apartment on July 28, 2007. Prosecutors say Harris lured Goodridge, 55, to her Beach 69th St. apartment on July 28, 2007, handcuffed him to a chair and stuck a towel in his mouth.
She then removed his penis with a surgical scalpel.

She admitted to cooking the evidence on a stove because she had learned from researching the John Bobbitt case that a penis can be reattached. She simply wanted to dismember him to prevent him from sexually abusing anyone else. He was found handcuffed and beaten, with his genitals severed and a towel stuffed in his mouth.

Harris acted after learning that he was planning to take his sister's daughters back to Liberia, where he was born. "There was no way I could let it continue. I did it because I couldn't let my sister's children go through that...I don't know why I didn't take the towel out of his mouth.I didn't want him to hurt anybody else."

Harris told her sister, aunts, and other relatives about the incest, but they did not believe her. "No matter what he did, he's still your father," one aunt said. "The people who did know me should have known I wasn't lying. They knew me. They knew I wasn't that type."

The unusual case flipped the common dynamic that a jury is supposed to feel sympathy for the victim and at least some aversion toward the defendant. One juror called Goodridge “a sick pedophile”; others agreed with the prosecutor’s statement that he was "despicable.” On the other hand, at least 10 jurors said they plan to write letters to the judge and the parole board to ask that Ms. Harris be set free on time served.

“No one should have to go through what she had gone through. I just felt to put her away for another 30 or 40 years is not justice. Hopefully, she will get the help she needs and be able to make a life for herself when she gets out,” said one of the jurors.

Cooperman acknowledged the findings of mental health professionals who agreed Goodridge repeatedly sexually abused his daughter from age 3, but he cautioned against victims taking the law into their own hands.

"Sometimes, the crime itself warrants punishment," he said

“[Jurors] came back with a just verdict, but the judge came back [and said] ‘give her the max’ without even thinking,”  said Harris' attorney Arthur Aidala, who represented her pro bono.

On Riker's Island, the jail for NYC residents awaiting trial, Harris' interests include vampire books, and ironically, cooking classes. She has also found out that many incarcerated female inmates have their own incest histories. "I try to tell them that if they did it to you, they could do it to someone else," she said.

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