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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Justin Harris Murder Case

     Justin Ross Harris, a 2012 graduate of the University of Alabama, lived in suburban Cobb County outside of Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Leanna and their 22-month-old son Cooper. On the morning of Wednesday, June 18, 2014, with the toddler strapped into his carseat in the back of his father's 2011 Hyundai Tucson, Justin Harris drove straight to the administrative offices of Home Depot where he worked. Instead of first dropping Cooper off at the boy's day school he left his son in the car.

     At noon that day, with the temperature in suburban Atlanta at 92 degrees, Mr. Harris ate lunch at a restaurant not far from Home Depot then returned to work. When he climbed into the sweltering vehicle at four o'clock the boy was still in the carseat.

     The boy's father drove to a nearby shopping center where, within hearing range of several people, he yelled, "Oh my God, what have I done? My God my son is dead!" Someone at the scene called 911.

     About an hour after responding to the shopping center parking lot, paramedics, unable to revive the boy, pronounced him dead. Officers with the Cobb County Police Department took Justin Harris into custody on suspicion of murder, felony-murder and cruelty to a child in the first degree.

     Following an interrogation at police headquarters, a Cobb County prosecutor formally charged Mr. Harris with the above three offenses. At his arraignment the suspect pleaded not guilty. The judge denied him bond.

     According to investigators, Justin Harris' wife Leanna said this to him at the police station following his interrogation: "Did you say too much?" Employees at Cooper's day school told police officers that when they called the boy's mother to inform her that he had not been delivered to class that morning she said, "Ross (Justin) must have left him in the car."

     Following a search of the suspect's dwelling and office detectives discovered that Justin and Leanna had conducted Internet searches on the subject of hot car death. One of their inquires read: "how long does it take for an animal to die in a hot car?" When confronted with this incriminating evidence Mr. Harris explained he had been fearful about his son dying inside a hot car. Detectives didn't buy the suspect's explanation.

     Leanna, in filling out a routine victim's statement form, in the place for the victim's name wrote "self" rather than Cooper Harris.

     Upon completion of the victim's autopsy the medical examiner ruled that the boy's cause of death was consistent with dying from heat inside of a vehicle. The forensic pathologist wrote that "investigative information suggests the manner of death as homicide."

     Shortly after police officers took Justin Harris into custody his family and friends established an online petition calling for the prosecutor to drop the felony-murder charge. According to the petition, Cooper Harris' death was "a horrible accident. The father loved his son immensely. They were loving parents who are devastated. Justin already has to live with a punishment worse than death." The Harris support group also created an online fundraising account for the suspect and his wife.

     On August 9, 2014 Leanna Harris' attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, told reporters that he was concerned that the Cobb County District Attorney's Office would bring homicide and/or child cruelty charges against his client.

     As the January 2015 trial approached, Justin Harris' attorney, Maddox Kilgore, insisted that the child's death was a tragic accident and not an act of criminal homicide. The prosecutor, on the other hand, believed the death had been an intentional killing motivated by the suspect's desire to live a child-free life.

     From the Harris home detectives acquired 120 computer discs containing videos, photographs, cellphone records, emails and the contents of other material on the suspect's computer hard drives. From this data investigators learned that on the day of Cooper Harris' death Mr. Harris was exchanging sexually graphic texts with a minor girl and another woman. This evidence led to the additional charge of dissemination of pornography to a minor.

     On November 16, 2016, following a five-week trial featuring Leanna Harris as the defense's chief witness, a jury in Brunswick, Georgia found Justin Harris guilty of first-degree murder. Following the verdict, Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told reporters that Harris, in killing his child, "had malice in his heart."

     On December 16, 2016, the judge sentenced the 36-year-old Harris to life in prison without the chance of parole. 

1 comment:

  1. He didn't go straight to work, he had breakfast with him at chick fil A 3 minutes before he "forgot" him in the car.
    he also went back to the car at lunch and tossed some light bulbs in.
    HOW? did he not smell any odor coming from the vehicle?
    disusting pervo baby killer
    cece smith

    ReplyDelete