• Attorney: Leanna Harris isn't a suspect in son Cooper's death

    By: Mike Petchenik


    COBB COUNTY, Ga. - The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office has requested a “victim’s impact statement” from the mother of a toddler whose father is now charged with leaving him to die in a hot car, signaling, her attorney believes, that prosecutors don’t intend to charge her with a crime.
    Police have charged Ross Harris in the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, after they said he intentionally left the boy in his SUV for seven hours June 18. 
    Leanna Harris’s attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik Ms. Harris received a package, which included a book about grieving the loss of a loved one, a few weeks ago.
    “In my experience, the district attorney only sends packages like these when they think someone is the victim of a crime,” Zimmerman told Petchenik. “That’s what I believe based on what they’ve sent her. “
    “This is the most high-profile case in the social media era that Cobb County’s ever had, and the biggest case by far that Vic Reynolds has had since becoming the district attorney,” said Zimmerman.  “This just didn’t get out by mistake.  That doesn’t happen.”
    On the form, which Zimmerman provided to Petchenik, Harris talks about the impact the loss of her son has had on her.
    “The death of my son is still unreal.  Not a moment goes by when I don’t think about him or what our future would have held,” Leanna Harris wrote.  “I now live a tortured existence.”
    Harris wrote that she has received treatment for depression and grief.
    “Some days I completely break down because I miss my baby and my family so much,” she wrote.  “The rush to judgment by the public and the mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society.”
    Harris also defended her husband.
    “Ross was a wonderful father, and he loved Cooper with all his heart,” she wrote.  “I know without a doubt he would never have knowingly allowed any harm to come to our son.”
    A spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney’s office emailed Petchenik to say they are required by law to send that package to Harris.
    “I can’t confirm or deny that,” Kimberly Isaza wrote when asked if Harris was still considered a suspect.  “It is still an active investigation.”

    Legal observers not connected to the case told Petchenik it would be highly unlikely for the District Attorney’s office to send Harris the victim’s impact statement if they intended to charge her.

    “You would not send it to someone who you thought was a suspect,” said Marietta attorney Ashleigh Merchant.  “You would only send it to someone who you thought was a victim of the crime.”

    Defense attorney Esther Panitch, also not associated with the case, said that prosecutors often use the victim impact statement to gauge whether someone would be willing to testify against a defendant.

    “They can find out what her statements are, what her frame of mind is, to know that they don’t want to call her as a witness because she may not be helpful to the District attorney’s office,” Panitch said.

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