Justin Ross Harris: Court overturns murder conviction in 22-month-old son's death over 'sexting' info
The court argued that the jury was given material that was both 'extremely and unfairly prejudicial' and 'improperly admitted'
Georgia's highest court overturned Justin Ross Harris' murder and child abuse convictions on Wednesday, June 22. Harris was serving a life term for the 2014 death of his toddler in a hot car. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the convictions of 41-year-old Harris for the murder of his 22-month-old son Cooper in an astounding judgment by a vote of 6-3.
The court argued that the jury was given material that was both "extremely and unfairly prejudicial" and "improperly admitted." On eight counts, including intentional murder, Harris was found guilty in November 2016. For additional offenses, including sexual crimes involving a 16-year-old girl, a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 32 years.
The 134-page majority opinion, written by Chief Justice David Nahmias, states that while the justices all agreed that there was enough evidence to support Harris' convictions, much of the evidence relating to Harris' extramarital affairs and sexting obsession should not have been admitted and may have improperly influenced the jury.
As a result of the decision, Harris is qualified for a fresh trial over the murder and child abuse accusations leveled against him. Harris' lawyer, Mitch Durham, said: "We are very appreciative and grateful that we'll have a new trial."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: On June 18, 2014, Justin Ross Harris left his 22-month son Cooper in his SUV for almost seven hours, while he was working at the Home Depot corporate office in metro Atlanta. See a closer look at the timeline of events here: https://t.co/gWVqx1kC94 pic.twitter.com/LGurLNq9dR— Atlanta Journal-Constitution (@ajc) June 22, 2022
The three sex offenses Harris was found guilty of against the 16-year-old girl were upheld by the supreme court since Harris did not file an appeal. He was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison and will continue to serve that time.
In a statement, the Cobb County District Attorney's Office announced that it would submit a move for reconsideration in the matter. In order to escape himself from his unhappy marriage, the prosecution claimed Harris purposefully killed his son by locking him in a hot car for seven hours. They provided copious proof of Harris' sexual practices, such as sending graphic messages and images to women and girls and meeting some of them for sex, to back up this claim.
The boy's death, according to the defense team, was a tragic accident and they described him as a devoted parent. The jury "heard and saw an extensive amount of improperly admitted evidence," according to the majority judgment of the court.
My favorite true crime story is Justin Ross Harris. He left his infant son in a hot car to die and was charged simply because he was acting like a weird fag during the interrogation pic.twitter.com/gXma8qxIav— Obamna (@GayPOC1234) June 16, 2022
Prosecutors "presented a substantial amount of evidence to lead the jury to answer a different and more legally problematic question: what kind of man is (Harris)?" in addition to painting Harris as a father who "intentionally and maliciously" abandoned his child to perish in the summer heat, according to the report.
What happened on the unfortunate day?
On the morning of June 18, 2014, Harris, who had relocated for work from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to the Atlanta area in 2012, told police he had forgotten to drop Cooper off at daycare and instead had driven straight to his job as a web developer for Home Depot without realizing Cooper was still in his car seat.
In suburban Atlanta, where the temperature that day rose into the high 80s, Cooper passed away after spending around seven hours in the back seat of the Hyundai Tucson SUV outside of his father's workplace. In the majority opinion, Nahmias stated that although it was undeniable that Harris did leave his son in the hot back of his SUV, it was debatable whether he did so "intentionally and maliciously."
The trial court ought to have disregarded a lot of the evidence, including blown-up color photographs of Harris' genitalia retrieved from his text messages, the justice claimed, even though part of it was appropriate to support the prosecution's interpretation of Harris' motivation. According to Nahmias, the state "convincingly demonstrated that (Harris) was a philanderer, a pervert, and even a sexual predator."
"This evidence did little if anything to answer the key question of (Harris’) intent when he walked away from Cooper, but it was likely to lead the jurors to conclude that (Harris) was the kind of man who would engage in other morally repulsive conduct (like leaving his child to die painfully in a hot car) and who deserved punishment, even if the jurors were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he purposefully killed Cooper," Nahmias wrote.
The opinion stated that the admissible evidence was "far from overwhelming. We cannot say that it is highly probable that the erroneously admitted sexual evidence did not contribute to the jury's guilty verdicts."