Murder and cruelty charges dismissed against Georgia father in toddler’s hot car death

A Georgia father will not face another trial in the death of his toddler in a hot car, prosecutors said Thursday, after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled last year. commuted his convictions for murder and child cruelty..

Justin Ross HarrisThe 42-year-old was found guilty in November 2016 on eight counts, including one of malice murder in the June 2014 death of her 22-month-old son, Cooper. A judge Punished him Life without parole plus 32 more years in prison for other crimes.

But the Supreme Court of the State Voted 6-3 His convictions for murder and child cruelty were overturned last June, saying the jury had seen evidence that was “grossly and unfairly prejudicial”.

The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, said in a statement that it disagreed with the majority’s decision. But because of the ruling, prosecutors said key evidence about Harris’ motive is no longer available for their use.

Justin Ross Harris listens to jury selection during his trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Harris was charged with murder after her young son died two years ago after being left in the back of a hot SUV. . (Stephen B. Morton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Poll)

Stephen B. Morton, AP

After a thorough review of the entire case, prosecutors said they decided not to retry Harris. On Thursday, a judge signed off on the dismissal of those charges.

Harris’ attorneys — Maddox Kilgore, Carlos Rodriguez and Brian Lumpkin — have said from the start that Harris was a loving father and that the boy’s death was a tragic accident.

“Ross has always accepted moral responsibility for Cooper’s death,” he said in a statement after the charges were dismissed. “But after all these years of investigation and review, the dismissal of the charges confirms that Cooper’s death was unintentional and therefore there was no crime.”

The High Court upheld Harris’ convictions for three sex offenses against a 16-year-old girl, which Harris did not appeal. He was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison for those crimes, and will serve that sentence, the district attorney’s office said.

Harris moved to the Atlanta area for work in 2012 from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He told police that on the morning of June 18, 2014, he forgot to drop Cooper off at daycare, and went straight home to his job as a web developer. Leaving Depo and the baby in his car seat.

Cooper died about seven hours after sitting in the backseat of a Hyundai Tucson SUV outside his father’s office in suburban Atlanta, where temperatures that day reached the low 80s.

Georgia Supreme Court justices agreed there was enough evidence to support Harris’ convictions. But the majority opinion said much of the evidence related to his sexual activities should not have been allowed at trial and may have improperly influenced the jury.

At trial, prosecutors presented a theory that Harris was unhappy in her marriage and killed her son so he could go free. In support of this claim, they presented evidence of his extramarital sexual activities, including exchanging sexually explicit messages and graphic images with women and girls and meeting some of them for sex. Is.

The high court found that they had also presented “sufficient evidence to lead the jury to answer a different and more legally difficult question: What kind of man is (Harris)?”

A dissenting opinion found that the State had the right to present detailed evidence of “the nature, scope, and extent of Harris’s actual nefarious motive” and found that the trial court was entitled to allow the jury to see the challenged. It was not wrong to allow. evidence.

Harris’ attorneys said the case “sadly fits the pattern of how children are left involuntarily in cars.”

“Blaming a grieving parent for an unintentional memory lapse does nothing to prevent tragedy from happening to someone else,” their statement said. “In fact, child deaths from hot cars increased after Ross’s 2016 trial.”

Harris’ case attracted extraordinary attention, drawing intense coverage in the Atlanta area and making national headlines and sparking debate online and on cable news shows. After nearly three weeks of jury selection, the presiding judge moved the trial to Brunswick, on the Georgia coast, after determining that it was too early to find a fair jury in Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta. Agreed to move.

On average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heat stroke after being left in a car, and more than 900 children have died since 1998. National Safety Council. A record number of 53 children died in both 2018 and 2019. Left in a hot car.

Mike Bates, meteorologist for The Weather Channel, told “If it’s 100 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car will reach 119 degrees after just 10 minutes,” says Norah O’Donnell, anchor and managing editor of “CBS Evening News.” After half an hour, the temperature inside the car will reach 134 degrees, which is “unsurvivable for a small child or pet strapped into a car seat.”

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