Harris has long proclaimed his innocence in the death of his wife Michele
After the jury in the Cal Harris murder trial declared it was deadlocked for the third time on Thursday, Judge George Bartlett declared a mistrial on Friday.
It was the third trial for Harris, 53, who has previously been convicted twice of killing his estranged wife Michele, but both times the verdicts were set aside – the first verdict, from 2007, after a new witness emerged to say he’d seen Michele after investigators believe she was killed, and the second verdict, from 2009, after a ruling that mistakes were made during the trial.
In a statement, Harris thanked the jury for their hard work. “In particular, I want to thank those jurors who fought for me and my children,” he said. “Your faith in me was not misplaced. I did not have anything to do with Michele s disappearance. One day I hope to be able to prove that to everyone’s satisfaction.”
He added: “I have four truly amazing children. Taylor, Cayla, Jenna and Tanner: Your strength, resilience, kindness and support through these incredibly difficult circumstances have given me the strength to survive. No one should have to go through what we have endured. Without you, this brutal process of trial after trial would have crushed me. With you I know that together we can meet the next challenge.”
Harris went on to urge anyone with information about Michele’s disappearance to come forward.
“We know that there are others out there with information about Michele’s disappearance,” he said. “My children and I are asking you to please come forward and tell what you know.”
Michele’s body has never been found, and the father of four has long proclaimed he had nothing to do with her death. Indeed, his own children, who were just between the ages of 2 and 7 when they last saw their mother, believe in his innocence.
“He might not have gotten along with my mom toward the end,” Harris’ daughter Cayla told PEOPLE in January, “but I know he loved my mom very much, and he tells me all the time she was a beautiful person, a great mother, and he would never do anything to hurt the mother of his children.”
But prosecutors said Harris showed a pattern of intimidation aimed at his wife, including a 2001 phone conversation overheard by her hairdresser, who testified that Harris told her, “Drop the divorce proceedings. I will [expletive] kill you. I can make you disappear.”
However, defense lawyer Bruce Barket argued that without a crime scene, law enforcement targeted his client unfairly, never considering other suspects, including a number of men with whom Michele had relationships.
So is Harris headed for a fourth trial? Barket tells PEOPLE that seems likely. “We will continue our investigation,” he says. “We’ll get ready for the next step, which is probably going to be another trial.”
He adds: “There’s a small chance there won’t be another trial if the district attorney recognizes that given the number of favorable rulings he got in this case and he still wasn’t able to get a conviction, that they should take another look into the first investigation rather than another trial against this man they have no new evidence against.”
For Harris, the mistrial is a relief. “He continues to be worried about it,” says Barket. “He was hoping to finally be exonerated, but his daughter graduates from high school in a couple weeks and he’s thrilled that he’s going to be able to be there with her.”
Harris is due in court again on Aug. 12.
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