Georgia Supreme Court overturns Ross Harris’ murder conviction in son’s hot car death

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia Supreme Court has overturned A Georgia father’s murder conviction after he was charged with intentionally leaving his toddler son in a hot car.

Ross Harris was found guilty of murdering 22-month-old Cooper Harris in 2016. Harris left his son in the backseat of his car outside his office for hours in 2014, leading to the child’s death of hyperthermia.

On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction while upholding Harris’ conviction for sexual crimes committed against a then 16-year-old girl.

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“The Supreme Court has reversed Justin Ross Harris’s convictions for murder and other crimes related to the death of his toddler son, Cooper, in a hot car, because the jury ‘heard and saw an extensive amount of improperly admitted evidence,’” the court said in a release.

The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office says it plans to file a motion for reconsideration in the Harris case.

Harris, who moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to the Atlanta area for work in 2012, told police he forgot to drop his son off at day care on the morning of June 18, 2014, driving straight to his job as a web developer for Home Depot without remembering that Cooper was still in his car seat.

Cooper died after sitting for about seven hours in the back seat of the vehicle outside his father’s office in suburban Atlanta, where temperatures that day reached at least into the high 80s.

The case attracted national attention.

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Harris, 41, was convicted in November 2016 on eight counts including malice murder in the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. A judge sentenced him to life without parole as well as 32 more years in prison for other crimes.

Harris appealed his convictions for murder and first-degree child cruelty earlier this year.

In his appeal, Harris and his attorneys argued the evidence presented at the trial wasn’t enough and the trial focused too much on his extramarital, and sometimes illegal, sexual activities.

In the 134-page majority opinion written by Chief Justice David E. Nahmias and five other Justices, the court concluded that much of the sexual-activities evidence was not admissible in regard to the charges related to Cooper’s death.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to legal experts, who said they weren’t surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling. They said that during the trial, Cobb County prosecutors did a good job showing Harris was a lousy husband and a horrible person, but trying to show he intentionally killed his son was a little harder to prove.

WSB-TV Radio legal analyst Phil Holloway covered the trail extensively.

“They alleged that this was malicious, which means it was intentional,” Holloway said. “That it was done with an abandoned and malignant heart.”

Cobb County prosecutors argued that Harris killed his son so he would no longer be a parent or a husband and could pursue other sexual relationships, including one with a 16-year-old girl. During the sensational, weeks-long trial, prosecutors revealed details of sexting, pornography and adultery.

“The state did a great job pointing out that Justin Ross Harris was a pervert and a philanderer, but they noted reasonable minds on a jury can differ on whether or not that evidence proved he intended to kill his child.”

Harris said during the trial that he might not have been the best husband, but he was adamant that Cooper’s death was just a horrible accident.

The fact that his conviction was overturned doesn’t mean Harris will be able to walk out of prison. He still has time to serve a 12-year-term for sexual activity with the 16-year-old.

A new charge of computer pornography has also come to light. Holloway said that during the trial, both the prosecution and defense agreed that the new charges would only come to light if the murder convictions were overturned.

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