GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — A father convicted of murder in his son’s hot car death returned to the Cobb County Jail Tuesday to await sentencing.
Jurors convicted Ross Harris Monday on eight counts, including malice murder, for killing his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by intentionally leaving him in a hot car for nearly seven hours.
Tuesday morning, Cobb County prosecutors met with the staff in Glynn County to thank them for their time and assistance. Harris’ trial was moved to Glynn County earlier this year after Harris’ attorneys said they didn’t believe an impartial jury could be found in Cobb County.
Now that Harris has been convicted, the case moves back to Cobb County for the sentencing phase.
Lead prosecutor Chuck Boring sat down with Channel 2’s Ross Cavitt Tuesday morning to talk about the case and the verdict.
"It would have been a much easier avenue to take for us to chalk this up to negligence or some type of accident we could have gone home and never had to deal with it ever again,” he said.
But Boring said that as they looked into the case, they had no choice but to put together a murder case against Harris.
"Every turn it was something, OK that doesn't make sense, that doesn't apply, that doesn't apply. Everything, at every turn we got to, was showing us malice, but even in our world, you don’t want to believe someone is capable of this,” he said. "I really think that he in no way thought anyone would call BS on him, you know."
Jurors in the case chose not to speak as they left the courthouse Monday. It took them four days and more than 20 hours to come back with a guilty verdict.
“To be quite honest you don't get a lot of direction about how you’re supposed to deliberate as a jury. You’re going back and you’re like, ‘OK, here it is.’” After getting all those jury instructions, I think it took them a day or so to figure out what in the heck they were supposed to do, and it sounded like after a day or so, they got a plan together and they went through the evidence piece by piece and every juror’s voice was heard,” Boring said.
Boring said they made sure each juror had their say in the important decision.
“Every juror, they devised a system where they would go around and everybody would get to voice their opinion so nobody would feel like they didn’t have a voice in it, so I thought that was pretty amazing,” he said.
Jurors told Boring that they were nearly unanimous from the beginning but felt it was their duty to go through every piece of evidence.
“They said that, I think, just from the outset they were all in agreement three-fourths on everything,” he said.
Boring said cross-examining Harris' ex-wife, Leanna Taylor, was one of the toughest parts of the case. He said he was surprised with how rehearsed her testimony was as she backed her ex and is equally as surprised that many still consider her a suspect in Cooper's death.
"I will tell them, much like you say in cases, you just don't go jumping to conclusions and accusing something you don't have evidence. And there's just no evidence in this case to charge her with anything. I think that's where we will have to leave it at this point,” he said.
Taylor’s attorney Lawrence Zimmerman released the following statement in response to Boring’s statements Tuesday afternoon:
“Two years ago after the horrific death of Cooper Harris occurred the clouds began to swirl around Leanna (Harris) Taylor after her then husband was arrested. At that time she was living every parent's worst nightmare and continues to do so every waking moment. Today, Cobb prosecutor Charles Boring emphatically stated to WSBTV that there is no evidence at all connecting Leanna to the death of her only child, Cooper. In fact, Mr. Boring reminded the public that we do not accuse anyone of crimes or jump to conclusions without evidence, of which in this case, there was none whatsoever pointing towards her.
While it is unfortunate that the prosecution did not state this early on in their investigation, we hope that Mr. Boring's statement may dissuade others from making nasty and negative comments about her. She is a mother who lost her only child and only a few unlucky parents will know what it is like to live in her skin.
We never had any doubt about her complete innocence, and our statements since that time have always shined a light on the truth. It was unfortunate that she had to even take a polygraph to prove her non-involvement, which she passed. Although there is a large void in her life, we hope she can finally heal and work to save the money needed to place a marker on Cooper's grave. May he rest in peace.”
Harris’ lawyers were visibly upset as the verdict was read and in their post-verdict interview on Monday.
“When an innocent person is convicted, there’s been some breakdowns in the system, and that’s what happened here,” Maddox Kilgore said Monday.
Boring disputed those claims in our exclusive TV interview Tuesday.
“I can’t get into their heads to know if they truly think that (or) if they’re advocating for their client,” Boring said.
Kilgore said they are already preparing the paperwork for an appeal.
“Over the next couple of months and years we’re gonna work towards getting to the bottom of some of those breakdowns. Obviously, we’re gonna be filing the necessary paperwork for a motion for a new trial and appeal,” he said.
Harris’ sentencing is schedules for Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. in Cobb County.
The 35-year-old is facing a maximum of life in prison without parole plus 42 years.
Boring says the state's recommendation has not been finalized, but it will be tough.
"What other sentence, what do you do when you have got somebody that’s been proven guilty of intentionally cooking a child in a car?” he said.
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