A Georgia man was denied a new trial after being convicted of murder for leaving his one-year-old son in a hot car so he could meet up with an underage girl. Following his son Cooper's death for spending seven hours inside a hot car, Justin Ross Harris, 40, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2016.
Last Thursday, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark, who presided over the initial trial, rejected Harris' request for a new trial. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his attorneys argued that the murder case against their client had been wrongly combined with another involving his soliciting pictures from underage girls.
Allowing a retrial would have required Judge Clark to confess to mistakes she made during the initial trial. Attorneys for Harris said they intended to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Harris Five-Week Trial Timeline
During the five-week trial, prosecutors laid out the timeline of the day Harris left Cooper in the car. Harris worked for Home Depot as a software developer, and on June 18, 2014, at 9:25 a.m., he left his son in the parking lot of his Vinings, Georgia office.
Per Daily Mail, Harris returned to his car early in the afternoon to drop off light bulbs he had just bought, but it is unclear if he knew his son was still in the car. According to police, Harris said he knew Cooper was still in the car when he got out of work at 4:16 p.m. and attempted CPR, but he never called 911.
He said that he had forgotten to drop his son off at daycare earlier that day. Temperatures reached 92 degrees that day, and experts testified that the temperature inside the car possibly reached 125 degrees.
The Georgia dad's extramarital affairs were the subject of much of the trial. On the day of his son's death, it was discovered that he had been in contact with six women, one of whom was under the age of 18. Harris was found guilty on three counts relating to his interactions with two underage girls, in addition to murder.
Harris's defense team, Marietta attorneys Maddox Kilgore, Carlos Rodriguez, and Bryan Lumpkin, claimed the judge prevented them from challenging the credibility of Cobb County police and expert witnesses. The defense said such mistakes were made solely to impugn Harris' integrity and were unrelated to the issue of whether Cooper's death was intentional.
The state argued the Georgia man purposely left his son in a hot car
The state argued that the facts confirmed their claim that the defendant murdered his young son to live a life without children, to be able to divorce his wife, and then to have multiple sexual affairs, in response to the Georgia dad's motion for a new trial. Cobb Detective Phil Stoddard testified that Harris was a "child-free" lifestyle group member, which Kilgore called "an absolute lie."
The defense said the child-free group came up in a Google chat with a coworker, prosecution witness Alex Hall, who sent Harris the connection to the Reddit subgroup. "Grossness!" exclaimed Harris, as per Fox5. Marietta attorney Ashleigh Merchant said the defense has a clear argument for appeal.