Appeal denied in Chiquita Tate slaying

The state’s highest court Friday let stand a Baker man’s manslaughter conviction and 40-year prison term in the 2009 stabbing death of his wife, lawyer Chiquita Tate, in her downtown Baton Rouge office.

The Louisiana Supreme Court, without comment or dissent, denied Greg Harris’ appeal.

“I’m not surprised,” said East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns, the lead prosecutor in the Harris case. “I expected nothing to change.”

A three-judge panel of the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge had affirmed Harris’ conviction and sentence in November.

An East Baton Rouge Parish jury found Harris, 41, guilty of manslaughter in 2011 in the Feb. 20, 2009, slaying of Tate, 34, at the State National Life Building on Third Street. She was stabbed 43 times. Harris was tried on a second-degree murder charge.

The 1st Circuit panel said it was convinced “that any rational trier of fact ... could find that the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt ... all of the elements of second-degree murder.” The panel, however, said it would not substitute its own “appreciation of the evidence and credibility of witnesses for that of the fact finder.”

A second-degree murder conviction would have carried an automatic sentence of life in prison. State District Judge Trudy White imposed the maximum term allowed for manslaughter — 40 years.

Tate’s body was discovered after Harris called 911 and flagged down a police officer on patrol. He told police he went to the building to check on his wife after she did not come home from work the night before.

Both White and the appeals court panel said Harris used an “elaborate ruse” to try to escape suspicion after the stabbing.

Burns argued at Harris’ trial and sentencing that strands of hair were placed in the open palm of Tate’s left hand to make it appear her attacker was a female. Her Gucci wallet also was discarded in the Gardere Lane area in hopes that an “unsuspecting thief’’ would use her credit cards and unwittingly become a murder suspect, the prosecutor said.

Harris told police he was in the Gardere Lane area the night his wife was murdered, but said he went there to buy steroids.

Tate married Harris in February 2008, one year before her death.