A man already in prison for shooting a Buffalo Police Officer could face murder charges in the wake of her death. The attorney who originally prosecuted the case said he should.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — In 2007, Varner Harris Junior pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of two Buffalo police officers.
"Here we had a situation where two police officers were shot," Former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said.
The December 2006 shooting left Officer Patty Parete paralyzed.
"In my memory, and I was prosecuting for more than 30 years, I can't remember one event like that, that was more traumatic than that shooting," Clark said.
Clark said he was relatively pleased with the plea deal that sent Harris to prison for 30 years to life.
But with Parete's death last week still being reviewed by the Erie County Medical Examiner, the former DA said it could be time to charge Harris with murder.
"My gut is that he can still be charged with that," Clark said.
The chairman of the Criminal Law Committee for the Erie County Bar Association also believes Harris could be charged with murder even though he's already pleaded guilty in the case.
"Where the conduct that brings about an assault related charge that eventually results in death, there is an exemption to the bar of double jeopardy," John Nuchereno said.
Nuchereno said it would be a difficult case to put together because more than six years have passed.
"The fact that you start the snowball down the hill doesn't mean you're responsible for everything that happens before it reaches the bottom of the hill," he said.
"I don't think there's any problem with factually connecting her death with the injuries she suffered back then," Clark said.
Nuchereno doesn't believe Harris will ever be granted parole.
"Police organizations, district attorneys can make recommendations and, you know, the strongest recommendations are going to come in on a case like this," he said.
But Clark said even if it means choosing form over substance, he would reindict.
"It had such an impact, not only on the police department, but on the entire community and in my mind shooting a police officer is about as serious a crime as you can commit," Clark said.
The decision will ultimately come down to the current District Attorney, Frank Sedita, who chose not to comment Monday.