Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harrison Graham: The Corpse Collector

The Defense

The first witness on Graham's behalf was his former foster mother.  Wilhelmina Williams had taken care of him from age 2 to 7 and she said that he'd been a "slow learner."  He was essentially incapable of taking care of himself.  She had never seen him learn to read or write.

Graham's mother supported this when she said that her son never seemed to learn anything.  Unlike her other children, he'd fail to grasp the difference between right and wrong.  He was also a troublemaker in school and suffered from nightmares.

Another psychiatrist also testified on the issue of insanity.  Dr. Timothy Michals said that since Graham could not recall anything about the first five murders, it was not possible to judge his mental state at the time of those crimes.  However, during the last two murders, which were still fresh when he was arrested, he had been in a psychotic state.  He'd hallucinated the voices of both God and the devil.  When cross-examined about Graham's apparent awareness that a discovery of the body on the roof meant he'd be arrested, Michals said he could not address those crimes.  He admitted that if Graham's statement to police had not been forced as Graham had claimed, then clearly he'd known that what he was doing was wrong.  That would make him sane at the times of those crimes.  Concealing the corpses indicated that as well.

When they discussed the leg bones found in the bag, Graham began to giggle.  When a reporter from the Inquirer later asked him why, he said, "He left out the ankle bone."  Perhaps to affirm the impression that he was mentally unhinged, Graham brought in four furry monkey puppets and set them in a row to play with while the attorneys argued his case.  He also wanted to take the stand in his defense, saying, according to his attorney, "Put me on.  I'll clear this up."  Each day he'd entered the courtroom with a bouncy gait.

In his closing argument on April 22, Moldovsky offered some options: the women found in the apartment may have died from drug overdoses, or other people, such as the landlord's relatives, may have tampered with the scene.  After all, they had "found" the bodies.  Moldovsky also restated his position on the insanity defense and insisted that his client had been on drugs and may have strangled the women by accident.

ADA King declared these statements to be "sheer fantasy" and urged Judge Latrone to consider only the reality of the evidence. "Toto," he said sarcastically, "We're no longer in Kansas."  No one, he pointed out, could believe that someone could accidentally strangle seven women.  Graham, plain and simple, was a serial killer. "Out of his mouth," he stated, "judge him."

 

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