Murder Trial Begins Against Dominique Bassil in Death of Vance Harris

Vance Harris The trial began Tuesday in the case against Dominique Bassil, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend, Vance Harris II.

In opening arguments, both sides made clear that the case will revolve around the question of whether or not Bassil was acting in self-defense when she stabbed Harris in their Southeast D.C. apartment in the early morning of Aug. 13, 2011.

This case is not a whodunnit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Jackson said during her opening statement. “It’s not a James Patterson novel. This case is about self-defense. Was the defendant acting out of self-defense? And the answer is: No.”

Bassil wiped tears from her eyes as Jackson read a series of text messages Bassil sent to Harris in the month leading up to his murder. Jackson used the messages to paint a picture of a tumultuous relationship and to depict Bassil as a jealous girlfriend.

This case is about mounting, escalating, growing anger and frustration with her cheating, disrespecting boyfriend,” Jackson said of Bassil.

Bassil’s defense attorney, Madalyn Harvey, spoke for less than half as long as Jackson, but her message was also clear.

[Bassil’s] actions were acts of self defense and they were legally justified,” Harvey told jurors.

She pointed out that the pair had returned from a wedding earlier that night and that Harris was “extremely intoxicated. He was aggressive and abusive.”

She added that Harris was 6-feet, 9-inches tall and “almost 300 pounds.”

The trial will resume tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in courtroom 318.

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