• Jury reaches a verdict on day 4 of deliberations in hot car death trial

    By: Hope Jensen

    Updated:

    GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. - BREAKING NEWS: The jury has reached a verdict.

    [READ: Ross Harris found guilty of murder in son's hot car death]

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    Day four of jury deliberations are underway in the Ross Harris hot car death trial after a long weekend break.

    Harris is accused of killing his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by intentionally leaving him inside a hot car for nearly seven hours in June 2014. He is facing eight charges, including malice murder.

    Harris’ trial lasted 23 days, with 70 witnesses taking the stand. More than 1,150 pieces of evidence were introduced in court and handed over to the jury when they began their deliberations last Tuesday.

    Channel 2’s Ross Cavitt and Carl Willis are in Brunswick, where the trial is being held. They will have updates from inside the courtroom on Channel 2 Action News.

    Jurors met for about two hours Tuesday, seven hours on Wednesday and another seven hours on Thursday, but as of Thursday night, they were unable to reach a verdict. The jury did not deliberate Friday on Veterans Day.

    So far, jurors have asked the judge to re-watch three videos of Harris that were played during the trial. Each of the videos had to be replayed in the courtroom with lawyers and the defendant present.


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    Those videos include Harris’ interview with detectives at police headquarters, Harris seeing his wife for the first time after Cooper’s death and surveillance video of Harris returning to his car in the Home Depot parking lot.

    Legal analyst Esther Panitch said she believes the decision to re-watch those videos gives her an idea of what charge they are debating.

    "This video to me is a very clear indication they are stuck on malice murder," she said.

    In the video, as Harris walks away, he pauses when someone else heads towards his SUV. Prosecutors argued that was intentional, but the defense said he was just looking at his phone.

    "If the jurors believe any one of those things, that he could have seen him, that he would have seen him or that he turned around to see if this other person was looking, those go to malice murder. Those show that he knew that his kid was in the car and kept walking away," she said.

    Panitch said in a case like this, there's no way to tell how long deliberations could take.

    "They had over 23 days of testimony and over 1,000 exhibits of evidence given to them. They are doing their job. They are doing what we all hope they do -- deliberate very seriously because this man is facing three counts of murder," she said.

     

     

    The charges jurors are considering

    During closing arguments, both sides went count-by-count telling jurors why they should or should not find Harris guilty. Here's a breakdown of what they said:

    Count 1: Malice Murder (potential sentence: life) – Prosecutors argued that malice murder means killing without justification, excuse or mitigation with malice aforethought. "There is no excuse" for that little boy's death, Boring told jurors. He said they do not have to prove premeditation for malice murder. Kilgore argued that there was absolutely no malice in this case, and that Harris truly believed that his son was at day care. “Mistake of fact is not a crime," Kilgore said.

    Count 2: Felony Murder (potential sentence: life) – Prosecutors said counts 2 and 4 go together. They do not have a requirement of an intent to kill, but do require malice. Boring argued that by knowingly leaving his child inside the car, Harris is guilty of felony murder. The defense countered that Harris had no reason to kill his son and that Harris did not intend to cause Cooper harm.

    Count 3: Felony Murder (potential sentence: life) – Prosecutors said counts 3 and 5 go together. Boring said that for these counts there is not intent to kill or malice needed to convict, just criminal negligence. He argued that at a minimum, Harris is guilty of being negligent. "This isn't an accident, because there is at a minimum criminal negligence, and evidence shows there was criminal intent,” Boring said. The defense argues that in order for Harris to be guilty of negligence, he would have had to know that Cooper was still in his car. "If he doesn't know, there's no way it can be criminal negligence." He said Harris did not realize his actions were causing his son’s death.

    Count 4: 1st degree Cruelty to Children (potential sentence: 5 to 20 years)– See count 2

    Count 5: 2nd degree Cruelty to Children (potential sentence: one to 10 years) – See count 3


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    Count 6: Criminal Attempt to Commit a Felony, to wit: Sexual Exploitation of Children (potential sentence: one to 10 years) – Prosecutors argued that Harris is clearly guilty of this count. He said Harris asked a 16-year-old to send him a picture of her genitals at least six times. The defense did not talk about this count in closing argument, except to say that if jurors find Harris guilty of counts 6 through 8, Harris will “reap the whirlwind.”

    Count 7: Dissemination of Harmful Material to Minors (potential sentence: up to one year) – Prosecutors said Harris "coached a 16-year-old on how to perform oral sex” and that there are text messages to prove it. He told jurors there’s no doubt Harris is guilty of this charge. The defense did not talk about this count in closing argument, except to say if jurors find Harris guilty of counts 6 through 8, Harris will “reap the whirlwind.”

    Count 8: Dissemination of Harmful Material to Minors (potential sentence: up to one year) – Prosecutors said this count differs from count 7 because it deals with actual photos that were sent through text. He said Harris sent a minor photos of his genitals, which makes him guilty on this count as well. The defense did not talk about this count in closing argument, except to say if jurors find Harris guilty of counts 6 through 8, Harris will “reap the whirlwind.”

    The District Attorney's Office said if Harris is convicted of all counts, he faces a maximum of life in prison without parole plus an additional 40-plus years.

    As soon as a verdict is returned, you can watch it LIVE on Channel 2 and WSBTV.com/Ross-Harris-Trial. There you can also find minute-by-minute coverage as well as a daily summary from each day of the trial. Like Ross Harris Updates on Facebook and follow @RossHarrisTrial on Twitter for updates as jurors deliberate.

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