Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man accused in Bayshore rape chooses his own jury

TAMPA — The rape suspect stood at a lawyer's lectern Monday, wearing a suit his mother brought him. He stood alone.

Luis Munuzuri-Harris, who has no law degree, decided to represent himself at his trial this week in Hillsborough County, where his first challenge was picking a jury.

A pool of 39 potential jurors stared back at him. Six would end up on his jury, and must decide whether Harris posed as a cop to pull over a woman and rape her along Bayshore Boulevard.

Repeatedly, a judge asked Harris if he'd changed his mind about not wanting an attorney. But Harris insisted on going solo. And so, with a voice softer than the prosecutor's, he began:

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen …

"I'm going to ask you to bear with me a little bit. Obviously, I'm not a trained professional …"

• • •

Typically, in these proceedings called voir dire, potential jurors are asked questions to reveal their biases. Lawyers inquire about exposure to pretrial publicity, history as either a victim or a defendant in a crime, and thoughts about important legal philosophies, such as the presumption that one is innocent until proved guilty.

Harris, 31, asked some of those questions. And he asked others that were more loaded.

"Do you believe that police can sometimes overreact?"

"Has anybody ever been accused of something they didn't do?"

"How do you feel about law enforcement taking someone and parading them in front of the media, just based on one arrest?"

"If a woman cried rape as opposed to a man, would the woman's word be more credible to you?"

• • •

Earlier Monday, Harris got some news he didn't like from the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office. He called it retaliatory.

The attorney once appointed to defend him — one he tried to get a judge to admonish because she didn't return all his phone calls — would not be serving as his standby counsel.

Instead, the office had sent over two male public defenders: Chuck Traina and Mike Peacock. They stood before him. Throughout the course of the morning, he declared that one was hostile; the other, not a good communicator.

Ultimately, the judge chose yet another lawyer: Christopher Boldt of the regional conflict office, a state-funded agency that steps in when public defenders declare conflicts.

That wasn't the attorney Harris wanted at his side.

In recent weeks, Assistant Public Defender Maria Pavlidis had devoted 90 percent of her time to his case. But she needed four more months to prepare. Harris refused to waive his right to a speedy trial. He opted, instead, to defend himself.

But he wanted her there with him, available for his questions.

• • •

He appeared nervous. He wasn't clear. He called out the wrong names. He looked like he was just trying to come up with questions.

Those were the observations of four potential jurors who spoke to the Times after their dismissal from the pool.

They thought he should have stuck with a lawyer instead of representing himself.

"He didn't gain anything, but I think he lost a lot," said Justin Finger. "He kind of dug himself in a hole."

But the only opinions that matter belong to the two women and four men chosen to spend the week in the jury box, along with two alternate jurors.

As soon as today, they will watch Harris cross-examine the state's witnesses, including, potentially, his alleged victim.

Alexandra Zayas will be tweeting the trial this week via

Man accused in Bayshore rape chooses his own jury 01/10/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 10, 2011 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carlton: A moment of sanity when citizens finally said no


    If you were looking for some small sign of sanity in the world, here's one courtesy of the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

    The Confederate memorial statue outside the old Hillsborough courthouse is now boxed up in plywood to prevent vandalism. Private donors have ponied up money to have the statue relocated to a cemetery. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times]
  2. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre


    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  3. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  4. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  5. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.