AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sept. 17 would have been Harrison Brown’s 20th birthday.
For Lori Brown, Harrison’s mother, the past four months since his murder has been emotionally draining. She has been anxiously waiting for the court proceedings against suspect, Kendrex White, to unfold.
Thursday, Brown traveled from her home of Graham, Texas to attend a pre-trial hearing for Kendrex White. Friends and family stood with her there, as did Stuart Bayliss, one of the victims who survived the attack her son did not. White’s parents were also present in the courtroom.
“I’ll be honest with you, I have a lot of apprehensions and my stomach hurts,” Brown said speaking about her feelings on the hearing. “And I hope that the prosecution does get to bring in their own psychiatric witness because the defense got a chance to do that so why wouldn’t the victim?” Brown added. “Insane or not, you will have consequences when you take someone’s life and assault three other people.”
Harrison died on on May 1, when he was stabbed in the chest while walking to grab some lunch on the University of Texas at Austin campus, where he was wrapping up his freshman year. Three other students were injured in the stabbing rampage.
Brown never got a chance to say goodbye to her son even though he asked a fellow UT student to call his mom as he was dying. “She was coming out of the door — he was holding his hand over his chest and there was blood coming out of his chest. He had held the phone out and said, ‘Call my mom,'” said Brown in an interview with KXAN’s Alyssa Goard in May.
For the hearing, Brown brought several things with her that reminded her of Harrison. She wore a button on her shirt from Harrison’s a Capella group the “Ransom Notes,” she brought a painting the children who live nearby made for her, and she brought some of the things that she found when Harrison’s bloodstained backpack was returned to her a month ago. She found a note inside which she believes to be one of the last things he wrote: a list of his future goals including making music and working in the film industry.
Brown said she hopes the prosecution does get another chance to appoint their own expert to evaluate White.
“Justice will prevail, and I have lots of family and friends here with me today, and we’re all here fighting for Harrison,” she said.
Two months after Harrison’s death, Brown also lost her husband to ALS. She has been working on efforts to memorialize her late loved ones from their home in Graham.
During that time, Brown has been striving to be a voice with her son, getting involved with the scholarships and memorials being made in his honor.
Brown has also been speaking with the University of Texas at Austin about what to do with the Harrison Brown memorial fund the university helped to raise. She said there is enough money to use the funds as an endowment. In particular, Brown is interested in using those funds to pay for tools and training to promote safety at UT.
“Nobody should ever be able to walk onto campus with an illegal 15-inch Bowie knife and stroll around the busiest part of the campus and start stabbing students,” Brown said.
She also plans to be involved with a memorial the university is planning in Harrison’s honor for Nov. 10.
Among those supporting the Brown family at Thursday’s hearing was Stewart Bayliss, one of the victims of the stabbing attack who survived.
Bayliss explained he had been stabbed in the back in the kidney-region, though the knife narrowly missed both his kidney and his spine. He said he didn’t know White and the only time he saw him was after he had been stabbed.
Now back at school for his junior year at UT, Bayliss is healing from his wounds, studying chemistry, and hoping his injuries from the stabbing don’t get in the way of his ROTC training.
You can still see zig-zag marks from the knife on his hands.
“And I wound up pulling the knife out, he pulled the knife from my hand my right hand and cut seven to eight tendons,” he said. “So I’ve been doing a lot of physical therapy at home but it’s more or less on me now, lifting weights to get back some more motion.”
Bayliss said he didn’t know any of the other stabbing victims, but it is important to him to fight for Harrison’s legacy.
“Harrison did not die in vain, his life has a lot of meaning behind it,” Bayliss said.
At the hearing, the prosecution asked to appoint their own expert to assess White’s mental health and competency to stand trial. However, the defense objected, saying that they have not made mental health an issue in White’s case. The judge denied the prosecution’s request for their own evaluation of white, stating that it was untimely.
But Judge Tamara Needles added that in the future if mental health does become part of the defense’s case that they may revisit the issue. She said she was cautious in this matter because she wanted to protect White’s 5th amendment rights.
The defense seemed concerned about this decision saying they felt it was apparent that mental health would be a key component of this trial. The state’s attorneys added that they felt further delay would hinder the accuracy of the trial.
Prosecutors also attempted to create a deadline in the near future by which the defense would have to decide whether or not they would use an insanity defense for White. Judge Needles proposed a pre-trial meeting between the prosecution and defense at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday to discuss further.
In June, White was found competent to stand trial by two doctors. His motion to be tested for insanity was denied. From his first appearance in court, White’s mental health has been the main point of discussion.