In Trial, Tearful Bassil Says She Didn’t Mean to Stab Harris

A tearful Dominique Bassil took the stand in her own defense today, as both the prosecution and defense concluded their cases in the death of Bassil’s boyfriend, Vance Harris II.

Did you love Vance?” defense attorney Madalyn Harvey asked Bassil.

Yes,” Bassil replied.

Did you want to stab him?”

No. I was scared.”

Bassil wiped the tears from her eyes as Harvey concluded her questioning.

Bassil insists she stabbed Harris in self-defense. At trial, Harvey described Harris as having violent tendencies.

Bassil testified that she initially told investigators that prior to the stabbing Harris had never been physically abusive towards her.

When asked by the defense if she would like to change that statement, Bassil said that Harris once hit her in the arm for changing the radio in his car. She said that the punch left a bruise which Bassil’s sister later noticed. She never told investigators about the incident, Bassil said, because she didn’t consider it to be abuse.

Bassil said the punch was the only incident of physical abuse by Harris that she could recall.

Another woman told the court she’d encountered Harris while he was working as a security guard at a Maryland department store. She testified that in July 2011 Harris grabbed her arm and refused to let her leave the property because she refused to show a receipt for her purchases.

The witness said that Harris left a bruise on her arm which hurt for the rest of the day. The woman reported Harris to police after the incident, but Harris was never arrested.

Prosecutors have argued that Bassil killed Harris when her frustration with Harris’s interaction with other women had reached a tipping point. In trial, phone records showed that Bassil had called at least two of Harris’s previous girlfriends, including calls to one’s work and cell phone.

At trial, prosecutors described Bassil’s and Harris’ relationship as “on-again, off-again.” A friend who introduced the couple testified that though the relationship began as strictly sexual, it soon turned into a committed relationship. Bassil and Harris lived together in 2008 in Bassil’s Southeast DC apartment.

Harris, though, married another woman in 2009, the friend testified.

When Bassil learned that Harris was married she told a mutual friend that she and Harris “were still gonna be together” because he was “her man,” according to testimony. In 2010 Bassil got a tattoo of Harris’s initials, and despite the marriage, Harris and Bassil remained romantically involved with one another. Harris later moved back with Bassil after separating from his wife, the friend who introduced them testified.

That friend said that in the months before Harris’ murder, Bassil was frustrated with Harris because Harris would not answer his cell phone while away. He testified that Bassil “didn’t understand why [Harris] got off [work] at eleven at night but didn’t get home until four or five in the morning.”

The night Harris died, he and Bassil attended a wedding together. According to the bride and groom, Harris, as part of the wedding party, sat at a different table than Bassil during the reception. Wedding attendees described Harris as free spirited, dancing with every man and woman at the wedding. The groom overheard Bassil tell Harris that she “wanted attention.”

In the prosecutor’s cross examination of the defendant, Bassil testified that Harris never hit nor threatened her at the wedding or reception.

A Prince George’s County police office testified that he had questioned Bassil hours before the stabbing occurred, after seeing Bassil sitting on a curb in Capitol Heights, Maryland. According to his testimony, Bassil told the officer that she and Harris had been arguing during their drive home from a wedding. The officer said Bassil seemed calm when he first began questioning her, but she soon began to cry. The officer observed no cuts, bruises, lacerations or bleeding; and Bassil made no mention of being fearful of going home with Harris. No arrests were made, and Bassil and Harris left together.

Prosecutors believe that the couple argued in Bassil’s apartment after the wedding. They said Bassil hit Harris in the head with a leather boot, then used a kitchen knife to stab him.

Bassil testified at trial that Harris didn’t hit nor swing at her after she stabbed him the first time. She said that after she stabbed him a second time Harris reached for a knife of his own. She then ran out of the apartment.

Neighbors told the court that early in the morning of Aug. 13, they heard Bassil’s door slam shut and what sounded like footsteps running down the stairs. Minutes later they heard someone run back up the stairs and bang on Bassil’s apartment door.

Oh, you gonna lock me out,” a neighbor said Harris yelled.

A few minutes later Harris knocked on the neighbor’s door seeking assistance.

The neighbor opened the door, saw that Harris was bleeding, then closed the door fearing that someone was chasing Harris. Harris put his back against the neighbor’s door and slid to the floor; he died while waiting for an ambulance.

A medical examiner testified that Harris had defensive wounds to his left hand, and that the fatal wound—which damaged a major artery in Harris’s right arm—may have been a defensive wound as well.

Closing arguments are expected Monday.

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