Harris, William

Accused murderer
Born deaf, the uneducated, moody son of a hearing man who had remarried to a hearing woman, Harris lived in a tiny shack on his father's farm in Granville County, NC, and came to the house for meals. One evening in 1859, Charity Fowler, wife of Harris's half-brother Richard, saw Harris was angrier than usual, and had a signed conversation with him in which he expressed anger for Richard having removed part of Harris' chicken fences, allowing the animals to escape. Harris waved around the gun he habitually carried around. Richard came in unarmed from the next room, and Harris promptly shot him between the eyes before retreating to his shack. The sheriff laid siege to the shack for 2 days before capturing Harris. He was arraigned for murder in March 1860. After a contentious trial, the jury found that Harris was unable to understand the charge against him or the purpose of the trial. The judge ordered Harris to be committed to the state asylum for the criminally insane. An 1861appeal upheld the sentence, and Harris died in the asylum a few years later.
Deaf Murder Casebook, p.29-36.