A two-time felon who insisted on representing himself in court was sentenced to life in prison Thursday in the 2017 sexual assault of a Waco teenager.
Jurors in Waco’s 54th State District Court, who endured Rodrick Eugene Harris’ rambling narratives as he served as his own attorney and star defense witness, took just 20 minutes to convict the 41-year-old of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child by contact.
The jury deliberated about an hour Thursday before returning punishment verdicts of life in prison on the first count and 60- and 30-year terms on the second and third counts, respectively. At the urging of prosecutors Sydney Tuggle and Will Hix, Judge Matt Johnson “stacked” the sentences, ordering Harris to serve the terms consecutively.
While Johnson went out of his way to accommodate Harris’ lack of legal knowledge and appointed Waco attorney Alan Bennett as a “stand-by attorney” to assist, Harris’ tenure as his own counsel was filled with what many would consider strategic errors.
For instance, jurors learned through Harris’ efforts about his two convictions for aggravated robbery, his time in prison and his claim of being a gang member with the street name of “King Ransom.” Normally, juries do not learn of such evidence until the punishment phase.
At the end of his cross-examination of Waco police Crimes Against Children Detective Chris Eaton, Harris asked Eaton what he really thinks happened in the case. Eaton paused and asked Harris if he really wanted him to answer the question. Harris assured him that he did.
“I think you pulled that little girl’s panties down and raped her,” Eaton said.
The girl, who is now 16, told the jury Harris, who was dating her mother, sexually assaulted her in October 2016 and molested her in June 2016.
In prosecution testimony, a county jail inmate housed with Harris testified that Harris tried to hire him to kill the girl, telling him that his felony case would go away if the girl were unavailable to testify against him.
“The journey to justice for the survivor of Rodrick Harris is finally over,” Tuggle said after the four-day trial. “We are honored and humbled to have been a part of her story and to have played our small role in this process. This defendant will no longer terrorize the citizens of our community, and we have our 12 jurors to thank for that.”
Tuggle also thanked Waco police and Child Protective Services investigators and those at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children for the roles they played in the case.
“This was a group effort to finally reach this justice for our survivor,” she said.
With the consecutive sentences, Harris will have to serve a minimum of 75 years before he can be considered for parole.