Florida Rape Suspect Asks For Public Defender After Cross-Examining Alleged Victim

Woman forced to detail alleged rape to man accused of raping her.

Jan. 14, 2011 — -- A rape suspect who is acting as his own lawyer grilled his alleged victim on the details of the sex assault, and then asked the judge for a court appointed lawyer -- who could now call the woman back to the stand and make her relive the ordeal again.

Rape suspect Luis Munuzuri-Harrishad repeatedly rejected suggestions that he use the public defender, but changed his mind after he questioned his accuser.

The woman's name is being withheld because she may be a victim of a sex crime.

Before asking for a lawyer, Harris, 31, infuriated the judge with his tactics as well as accusing the judge of trolling the internet during the trial.

When scolded by Judge Chet Tharpe for inappropriate behavior and improper questions, Harris told the judge, "I'm not a dog you need to bark orders at."

Tharpe has appointed a public defender for the defense, but he is also considering whether to declare a mistrial and start over. A new trial would also require the woman to repeat the details of the alleged attack.

Harris faces felony charges including impersonating a police officer, sexual battery, aggravated assault and forced kidnapping. If convicted, he faces life in prison, according to court records.

The charges stem from a July 2010 night when prosecutors allege Harris drove along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa impersonating an undercover narcotics officer. He allegedly pulled over the woman now accusing him of rape.

The request for a lawyer comes after days of tense emotions in the Florida courtroom as Harris questioned the woman for more than two hours about the night of the alleged crime and asked her personal questions such as whether she wore underwear.

When Harris asked her, "When this person walks up to your car ... do you get out of your car?" she corrected him, "When you walk up to my vehicle."

At another point, she corrected his question by saying, "I was raped by you. You forced sex upon me."

The woman claims Harris then used her ATM cards to withdraw money at a bank before raping her.

Alleged Rape Victim Cross-Examined By Alleged Rapist

During her testimony, she detailed the alleged rape.

"I was pushed up against the window and you were having sex with me from behind me," she said.

Judge Jeanine Pirro, a legal analyst and former prosecutor, said that it's rare for the accused to cross-examine the accuser. While it's perfectly legal, she said that cases like this one act as a big deterrent for rape victims to come forward.

"For a rape victim to not just recite, but relive the actual crime with the person who inflicted the crime upon her is the biggest deterrent you can have," Pirro said. "This is a nightmare. There are victims who have tried to kill themselves, who have collapsed after testifying."

Pirro said that a judge has the tough job of making sure that the rape suspect does not overly badger the accuser who is testifying.

"The witness is clearly lost in the moment of going back in time...this puts her in a position of not being able to extricate herself from it, putting closure on it. She really has another nightmare to live," Pirro said.

In his black robe, with his arms crossed in front of him, the judge closely monitored Harris' line of questioning, and Tharpe's face became increasingly red throughout the cross-examination. Finally Tharpe had his own outburst as Harris cross-examined the witness at a painstakingly slow pace, taking two to three minutes between questions.

"I will not allow you to stand at the podium and read the deposition, page by page, until you can figure out what your next question is," Tharpe said.

At another point, the judge said, "What is happening, Mr. Harris, is that you are creating an undue hardship on this victim by asking her the same questions over and over. It's almost to the point of badgering this witness."

Tharpe said it was clear that Harris had no idea about the appropriate etiquette and behavior of a lawyer.

"You clearly don't know the difference between sustained and overruled," Tharpe said.

Waving and pointing his finger, Tharpe told Harris that he could be held in contempt of the court.

Harris defended himself and his line of questioning to the judge.

"For the record, I'm making a good-faith effort to defend myself the best that I can," Harris said. "Maybe I should have prepared better for the questions. I understand that now, but I'm making a good-faith effort, judge."

Judge Deciding About Possible Mistrial

Now that Harris has decided that he can't represent himself, Pirro said that he gets another opportunity to cross-examine his accuser.

'Now he gets to question her again through his attorney," Pirro said. "We know that predators like to relive their sex crimes. It gives them an opportunity to relive that moment with the victim again."

Tharpe is still deciding whether to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors allege that taped conversations from Harris' jail cell reveal him instructing his girlfriend to tamper with witnesses, including his mother.

Harris has a prior criminal record that includes convictions for grand theft, the Tampa Tribune reported. He also faces charges that two days after the alleged rape, he falsely impersonated an officer and beat a man while outside of a bar.

At his opening statement earlier in the week, Harris said that he's "not a monster."

ABC Affiliate WFTS contributed to this report.