Justin Ross Harris: Dad who left baby in hot car while texting women will appeal murder conviction
Justin Ross Harris, the father convicted in 2016 of killing his child by leaving him in a hot car, will appeal to Georgia's Supreme Court next week. Harris is currently serving a life term in Macon State Prison and the defense is anticipated to argue that prosecutors used evidence of Harris' several extramarital affairs incorrectly to infer he willfully killed his son Cooper Harris to escape a failing marriage.
The 22-month-old died allegedly as a consequence of a terrible event in which his father left him in the back of his car for hours in the middle of heatwaves. When Harris requested a new trial in December 2020, Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark heard identical arguments. Clark refused the request in May 2021, claiming that the evidence was adequate to uphold Harris' convictions beyond a reasonable doubt.
Clark previously presided over Harris' initial 2016 trial, during which his infidelities and transgressions were among the more scandalous aspects of proceedings that drew national attention. Searches of Harris' text messages and social media interactions revealed that while married to his then-wife Leanna Cooper, he was exchanging sexual messages and images with a 17-year-old girl.
In the Supreme Court appeal, attorney Mitch Durham said that while a large amount of sexual impropriety was uncovered in the communications, but the state selected a few examples from them to destroy Harris' image. Along with the murder charges, Harris was convicted of many sex felonies for his involvement with a juvenile. Durham also claims that trying the counts concurrently created the idea in jurors' minds that the sex offences and murder accusations were linked. "The evidence does not support the State's allegations that (Harris') sexual messages, texts, conversations, and acts are intertwined with the death of Cooper," Durham said. Meanwhile, the prosecution maintains that Harris' dalliances were critical in establishing a motive for purposefully murdering his kid.
"In this case," according to the prosecution's brief, "evidence of Harris' purpose rendered it more likely that he murdered his kid and less likely that it was an accident." Another area of contention in the appeal will be Dr David Diamond's involvement as a neuroscientist who was scheduled to testify for the defence as an expert on what motivates parents to leave their children in overheated automobiles.
The defense abandoned the idea at the last minute after the court ordered him to give over notes he took during private pre-trial sessions with Harris. Harris will also contest the use of a 3D model of his automobile in court, as well as the restrictions placed on cross-examination of two Cobb County Police Department investigators. Arguments in the case will begin at 10 am on January 18, Tuesday.