UPDATE: Darryl Harris pleads guilty in death of pastor

Published: Jul. 14, 2010 at 11:37 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2010 at 9:16 PM EDT
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By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Darryl Harris pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, felony eluding police and felony hit and run. Under a plea deal with prosecutors, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Harris pled guilty this morning at the John Marshall Courthouse to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, felony hit and run and felony eluding. The trial was expected to take two days.

He plans to plead guilty in Henrico County in the next two weeks to possession of narcotics (ecstasy) and possession of a firearm while in possession of drugs.

Under the plea deal, he will serve 13 years total for the charges in both jurisdictions.

"We were hoping for a couple years less, but look a gentleman died in this accident," said Michael Morchower.

On March 24, Pastor Anthony Taylor had just left his church. Harris was stopped at a Henrico County Police checkpoint on Nine Mile Road. An officer smelled marijuana and asked Harris to pull into a lane. Harris floored it and two Henrico officers chased after him.

We asked Morchower why Harris ran. He said, "look you know you can never answer that question. I'm not a psychiatrist. He panicked. I mean why did the police chase him? They had his driver's license."

Before Harris slammed into Taylor, police say Harris was driving well over 90 miles an hour, possibly going over 100. They say he blew through seven stop signs.

"He flew through the city. There's no question about that," said Michael Herring.

Taylor was ejected from his truck. It eventually fell on top of him. Prosecutors say he suffocated to death.

Herring called Harris' driving beyond reckless, but, like the defense, wasn't quite sure what a jury would do with a case that's spurred so much emotion.

"I knew that half of the people in the city felt that Mr. Harris was a hundred percent at fault. I also knew that, perhaps an equal number of people questioned the conduct of the Henrico officers and because I couldn't control what a jury would do once it got to the deliberation phase. I took steps to ensure the outcome," said Herring.

Outside the courtroom, a member of Taylor's congregation, said he's forgiven Harris.

"I'm convinced that he has repented. What's a head of him won't be easy, but it will be possible," said Danard Ali Johnson.

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