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Why court overturned murder conviction in Ga. hot car death

Justin Ross Harris
Justin Ross Harris(Contributed)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 12:10 PM EDT
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ATLANTA - A 155-page decision reveals the Georgia Supreme Court’s line of thinking in overturning the murder conviction of the Atlanta father who left his 22-month-old son in a hot car while he was at work, resulting in the child’s death.

Justin Ross Harris, 41, left his son named Cooper in his car in June 2014. Harris was supposed to drop his son off at day care on the way to his job at Home Depot but did not do so.

Cooper was discovered seven hours later in the back seat of his father’s car outside his office in Atlanta. The temperatures that day was in the 80s.

Harris claimed it was an accident and blamed sleep deprivation.

Prosecutors claimed that Harris wanted to get out of his marriage because he wanted to have sex with as many women as possible.

The court’s ruling poses this question:

“What was going through Appellant’s mind when he left the vehicle? The State’s theory was that Appellant intentionally and maliciously abandoned his child to die a slow and painful death trapped in the summer heat, so that Appellant could achieve his dream of being free to further his sexual relationships with women he met online.”

Harris reportedly had exchanged sexual text messages with multiple women on the day his son died. One of the text exchanges was with a 16-year-old.

“The defense theory was that Appellant was a loving father who had never mistreated Cooper and simply but tragically forgot that he had not dropped off the child on that particular morning. During Appellant’s trial, substantial evidence was presented to support both theories,” the court wrote.

The jury in 2016 went with prosecutors’ point of view.

Harris was convicted of malice murder, cruelty to children and criminal attempt to commit a felony and sentenced to life without parole as well as 32 additional years for other crimes.

Harris filed an appeal for the murder conviction earlier this year.

The Georgia Supreme Court opinion released Wednesday says the jury saw evidence that was “extremely and unfairly prejudicial.”

The high court upheld Harris’ convictions on three sex crimes committed against a 16-year-old girl that Harris had not appealed.

READ THE COURT’S DECISION:

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