Stepdaughter Found Guilty In Mutilation Slay
Is Brigitte Harris a stone-cold killer who wreacked vengeance on a man who continually raped her when she was a youngster, or a good aunt trying to stop an abusive stepfather from molesting her nieces?
Defense attorney Arthur Aidala told the Queens Supreme Court jury on Monday that Harris had no choice but to stop Eric Goodridge from molesting others when she killed him in her Arverne apartment on July 28, 2007.
"Brigitte stopped her pedophile father from destroying any more lives," Aidala told the jury. "A father's duty - in the animal kingdom or in the human race - is to protect the young, to protect his children. Eric Goodgridge preyed on his children. He made her what she was on July 28, 2007."
Prosecutor Karen Ross saw the murder differently.
"You may not like the victim. You may think that he is the most despicable man you every heard of. You may even have sympathy for the defendant. That doesn't give her the right to take the law into her own hands," the prosecutor told the jury.
"Justice is about following the law," she added.
In a videotape that was made on her computer three days before the slaying, Harris said, "I'll tell you why I am going to do what I am about to do," going on to explain that her stepfather had repeatedly raped her and that nobody would do anything about it.
She explained on the tape that she had to do something to stop him from molesting her nieces, who had recently moved in with Goodridge in his Staten Island home.
"Nobody understands, unless it happens to you," she said on the tape. "It had to be done. It just had to be done."
Jurors obviously believed the prosecutor, because Harris was found guilty on Wednesday afternoon of manslaughter in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree in connection with Goodridge's death.
Police responding to 436 Beach 69 Street on the day of the murder found Goodridge handcuffed to a chair with a towel shoved in his mouth and his genitals cut off.
Harris had been charged with both second degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Judge Arthur Cooperman, who is presiding in the trial, instructed the jurors that they would have to find that Harris had an intent to kill Goodridge, that it was her intent and purpose to kill," in order to convict her of second degree murder.
Jurors, however, found for the lesser charge of manslaughter, which does not have the same burden, and brings a lesser sentence.
Harris faces 15 years in prison at her October 29 sentencing.