What is significant in this case is that, even though the first 3 trials were trials by jury, the defendant chose to have his 4th trial be decided by a judge - an extremely dangerous decision, even though it played out well for the defendant.
Judge Richard Mott,
a former public defender and defense attorney, who had a vast experience in defending murder cases
did acquit him of all charges.
The case was, from the very beginning, circumstantial.
No body of Michele Harris and no murder weapon were ever found.
Cal Harris maintained his innocence for 15 long years, through 4 murder trials.
My take is that it was natural for the court to conclude that circumstantial evidence, where there was no body, no murder weapon found, and where the first conviction was set aside because a witness claimed he saw Michele Harris hours after her alleged murder with somebody else, suggesting that Cal Harris was being framed.
The evidence in the case was, in fact, not so strong, since the previous, 3rd, jury deliberated for 11 days, and were still deadlocked.
Apparently, the judge had every reason to conclude that the "beyond the reasonable doubt" standard was not reached.
And, in a bench trial, as opposed to the jury trial, People are at a disadvantage (if the judge is not pro-conviction), because they cannot engage in their usual theatrics meant for lay jurors.
For example, in 2012 the New York State Court of Appeals, while reversing the conviction and sending it back for a new trial, said the following:
"Given the high-profile nature of the case, there was significant media coverage in local newspapers and on television, including two national broadcasts, covering Michele's disappearance and defendant's first trial. Defense counsel made two change of venue motions prior to the retrial, citing "prejudicial publicity." Each motion was denied, as was a third motion made by defense counsel during jury selection."
Cal Harris' family wealth comes from selling cars, and a "car salesman" is a derogatory tag in this country, whether you like it or not.
When a politician is called a "used car salesman", that is already a cliche presupposing that all used car salesmen are crooks and inherently unbelievable.
When many people are hurting from bad economy, having a criminal defendant parade one private attorney after another, can cause resentment in the jury just because his family could afford it.
I will run a separate blog describing the list of criminal defense attorneys who represented Cal Harris in this case, they were all private attorneys, and all not cheap attorneys.