The Texas dentist who was convicted of running over her cheating husband with her Mercedes said her dream marriage fell apart, and that she realizes now that her life will never be the same.
On Friday, the Houston jury that had convicted Clara Harris of murder also sentenced her to 20 years in prison. Harris, whose 11th anniversary would have been the same day as her sentencing collapsed into her attorneys' arms as she heard the sentence. She could have faced a sentence of anywhere from two years to life in prison.
"I pretty much consider my life is over," Harris told ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer in an interview that took place before her conviction. "But my kids have a lot to go through and I haven't found anybody that could replace me or my husband."
She acknowledged that most people would say that she should have thought of that before what happened.
"That's right," Harris said. "It's a very difficult question to answer."
The 45-year-old dentist was convicted of murdering her orthodontist husband, David, after finding him at a hotel with his mistress and former receptionist in July 2002. Clara Harris ran over her husband with her vehicle.
An Idyllic Marriage
In an odd twist, David Harris and his mistress were at the same suburban Houston hotel where the Harrises wed on Valentine's Day in 1992. The couple's twin sons, Brian and Bradley, were born six years later. Clara Harris says they had an idyllic marriage, a partnership with shared ideals about how to make their relationship last.
"I knew, and I used to brag with my friends about knowing that my husband was never going to fail me!" Harris said. "That was one of the main things that made our marriage so strong. I never had any doubts about him."
But then, last summer, there were some signs that she should. Her husband was growing distant.
"He was retracting from the family," Harris recalled. "He wanted to have time for himself. He was angry … so I think yes, there were signs and symptoms there."
It was one week before running down her husband in a hotel parking lot that Clara Harris' world fell apart. Her husband acknowledged to her that he was seeing someone else.
"Unbelievable. If he wouldn't have told me that himself, I would have never believed it," Harris said. "I asked him 'do you love me?' And he turned red and he waited, a few minutes of hesitation which told me immediately, there's something wrong here."
'There's Someone Else'
She and her husband went to bed that night, and Clara Harris said she was determined to try finding out what was going on. She intended to confront everybody else at his office and find out what was happening.
"I got up to go to work, and I turned the shower on and he came into the bathroom and looked at me. He said 'I think there's something that you need to know.'" Harris recalled.
As her husband gritted his face, and struggled to speak, Harris hoped desperately that he would say something other than what he said.
"He couldn't get the words out," Harris said. "I asked him 'is it that difficult for you to tell me?' "
Still, her husband struggled to speak.
"He just didn't even have saliva. It seemed that his mouth just dried up and he was looking at the floor — he finally said, 'you have to know that there is somebody else,'" Harris said. "We had plans. I couldn't believe that it had changed suddenly! For what?"
Harris, who testified on her own behalf, tearfully told the jury that she ran over her husband once by accident last July, and that she had been aiming at his lover's vehicle. But prosecutors maintained throughout the trial that she deliberately and repeatedly hit her husband after finding him at the hotel with the other woman.
Her defense attorney, George Parnham, argued that Clara Harris acted out of sudden passion and should have received probation. He suggested that the victim himself would have wanted his wife to receive probation and continue raising their twin 4-year-old sons.
The jury seemed to accept the sudden passion defense, but gave her the maximum sentence she could have received under that argument. If sentenced to 10 years or less, Clara Harris would have been eligible for probation.
Dan Walker, one of the jurors said that jurors considered a wide range of evidence before the conviction.
"I don't think there was one piece of evidence, it was a combination," Walker said.
Part of the evidence was a video that showed Clara Harris running over her husband outside the hotel.
"We took that in the jury room, and studied it pretty closely," Walker said. "You can see the body under the tires of the car. That was just a piece of the decision that I had to make."
Harris told jurors that she had tried to save her marriage after finding out about her husband's affair with his receptionist, Gail Bridges. She said she scheduled breast enhancement and liposuction surgeries, joined a gym, quit her job, cooked her husband's favorite meals and had sex with him three times a night in the week leading up to his death.
Though Texas law does not allow a jury to decide that a person was driven to murder by "temporary insanity", they may have considered that option, if it were available, said Veronica R. Olivares, another juror.
"Under sudden passion, I think that would have worked," Olivares said. After hearing about David Harris in the trial, she said that she considered the victim to be a good person.
"My opinion about David Harris? He's a good man, who made a mistake. That's the only opinion I have of him," Olivares said.
Both jurors said they considered that a conviction would leave the couples' children without a mother, but they also had to consider the law.