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  • Writer's pictureCaity Koz

Accused Murderer Heard Saying 'Disrespect Gets Your Life Taken' in Recorded Jailhouse Call

MANCHESTER, NH — The trial for Tyrese Harris began in Hillsborough Superior Court Northern District Tuesday.

Harris was accused of fatally shooting 45-year-old Dzemal Cardakovic in what police described as a road rage incident. The shooting took place on South Willow Street near the Mall of New Hampshire in October 2022. Indictment paperwork indicated Harris, who was driving a blue Honda CRV, cut off Cardakovic, who was driving the cab portion of a tractor-trailer truck.

Harris fled from the scene and a witness followed him, giving a description of the car, the registration, and the driver. A manhunt ensued, and after spotting Harris during surveillance at a Bodwell Road apartment complex, he was stopped on Cilley Road and taken into custody on unrelated charges. He was later charged with two counts of second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and reckless conduct.

Jurors were given basic instructions Tuesday morning by Judge Diane Nicolosi.

Harris sat at the defendant's table dressed in a gray shirt, tie, and wearing rosary beads. His appearance was much different than previous court appearances, and he wore glasses that he previously did not have on in court.

After the instructions, the jurors were taken outside to the back of the courthouse.

The vehicle Harris had been driving the night of the shooting was set up in front of a cab of a tractor-trailer emulating the scene from the night of the fatal shooting. Jurors were told the truck was similar to the actual truck Cardakovic was driving but was 6 inches taller and longer.

A white sheet was placed on the driver's seat of the Honda to protect the juror’s clothing as they were asked one by one to sit in the driver's seat of the car. The purpose of the exercise appeared to demonstrate the significant size difference between the truck and the Honda.

A small group of people, who appeared in the courtroom to support the defendant, were outside, watching as jurors viewed the vehicles.

After the viewing of the truck and car was completed, jurors boarded a bus and were transported to the South Willow Street area to view the area. Jurors were told they would not get off the bus but would view several specific locations.

The locations included the exit from 293 onto South Willow Street, where it is alleged the road rage began. Also, they would view the location where the shooting occurred.

After the bus tour, the jurors were returned to the courthouse and took a lunch recess.

After the recess, the small group on the defendant's side of the courtroom returned. More than a dozen people filled the courtroom benches on the side reserved for the victim.

Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen began his opening arguments by playing a jailhouse telephone recording of a call Tyrese Harris was on. In the phone call, Harris said: “He spit on me what was I supposed to do?”

"So, boom, right?” Harris is heard saying. “Your life was took 'cause you disrespect. Disrespect gets your life taken.”

Cardakovic died instantly after being shot by Harris in the face at a close range, possibly less than 2 feet away.

Cardakovic’s 11-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew watched from the truck as Cardakovic was killed.

Prosecutors say Cardakovic spit at Harris through a window halfway down, which is when Harris fatally shot him.

Cardakovic was on the street dead when Harris fled from the scene, witnesses saying he went around several cars and left the area. Traffic was heavy in front of the mall on Saturday afternoon when it happened. Prosecutors said he never called the police and was eventually found on the Eastside of Manchester.

Prosecutors said, "This is Harris’s own form of street justice for disrespect and not self-defense this is murder, plain and simple.” There were non-lethal options, but the defendant chose the most extreme. Prosecutors said the law defines self-defense as “a reasonable belief of imminent deadly force.”

Defense Attorney Pamela Phelan presented a different scenario for the jury. She said it was reasonable for Harris to assume Cardakovic posed a threat.

“In the moment that Tyrese Harris fired his gun, he was acting in self-defense,” she said. “He had to defend himself and his pregnant girlfriend, Kathy, who was in the car with him.”

Attorney Pamela Phelan went on to say, “The law does not require a person to wait to see what is going to happen. The law also does not require someone to find a way to get out of the situation they are in.”

The defense also said the victim continued to blow his horn after the car was out of his way, followed the car, never broke, and ended up “bumper to bumper.” She reminded the jury of the size difference between the truck versus the CRV and what it felt like when they sat in the front seat of the car.

She pointed out that the victim chose to get out of the truck and walk at a fast pace toward the CRV and chose to spit at the defendant.

“Then what happened? The truck driver gets out of his truck and walks rapidly up to Tyrese’s driver-side window with his fists clenched, yanks on the door to try and rip it open, and spits in on him,” she said.

After the defense concluded, three witnesses testified about what they saw at the scene the day of the incident. One of the witnesses stopped at the light in front of Harris and said he heard the horn and knew something was about to happen. He saw the victim get out of the truck and heard the gunshot.

Manchester Police Officer Abbey Cowette took to the stand and gave testimony outlining what she saw as she was the first to arrive on the scene. She verified the location of the vehicles and discussed what was taking place when she arrived.

Images were shown to her in court where the body could be seen in a pool of blood. As the images were displayed on a large screen in court, members of the victim's family gasped and cried. Several hugged and tried to comfort each other as the testimony continued.

Testimony will continue Wednesday morning, bringing additional state witnesses to the stand.

©Jeffrey Hastings

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