• Lawyers give closing arguments in Ross Harris hot car death trial

    By: Hope Jensen

    GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. - The jury will begin deliberating in the Ross Harris hot car death trial Tuesday morning.

    Day 22 Quick Facts

    • Lawyers gave closing arguments
    • Prosecutors argued that Harris wanted an escape
    • ADA Chuck Boring said Harris loved his "other life" more than he loved his son
    • Boring told jurors they are responsible for holding Harris responsible for Cooper's death
    • Defense attorneys argued it was just an accident, and the state hasn't proven otherwise
    • Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore said "grave suspicion" isn't enough to convict Harris 
    • Judge Mary Staley gave jurors their charge
    • Jurors will begin deliberations Tuesday morning

    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.

    Lawyers for both sides gave their closing arguments Monday.

    Prosecutors say Harris wanted “an escape”

    Assistant district attorney Chuck Boring presented the closing argument for the prosecution.

    Boring opened with the statement Harris made shortly before leaving his son in the car that day, in which he told a woman online, “I love my son and all, but we both need escapes.” It’s the exact same statement Boring used to open his case when the trial began 22 days ago.

    Boring argued Monday morning that Harris was living a double life and wanted a way out of his marriage. He said Harris was desperate, and loved his other life more than he loved his son.

    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.

    "Often times it's the last person that you would expect who would do evil to a child. Outwardly a great person, who appears to love and care for kids, can do the worst to children,” Boring told jurors.

    Prosecutor Chuck Boring gives the state's closing argument. He says Harris is responsible for Cooper's death, and therefore guilty.
    Prosecutor Chuck Boring gives the state's closing argument. He says Harris is responsible for Cooper's death, and therefore guilty.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    He said Harris’ short drive to work that morning and his texts about his son just before leaving him in the car are proof that Harris didn’t just forget Cooper. He said Harris backed up and then spent 30 seconds inside the car “before closing the door on that little boy's life.”

    Boring told jurors that Harris left Cooper to die an unimaginable, horrible death that he had watched a video about just five days earlier.

    He said Harris thought he would get away with it and become an advocate for preventing child deaths inside cars, but he couldn’t fool detectives.

    "It was the only manner in which he could escape his son and in some sick, selfish, perverted, grandiose manner, became an advocate and get attention in that manner," Boring said.

    Boring then went count-by-count explaining to jurors what it requires to find him guilty.

    He closed his first argument by saying that Cooper’s car seat was visible in the car, and “If Cooper was visible … the defendant is guilty on all counts.”

    Defense argues it was a horrible accident

    Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore told jurors the prosecution didn’t do its job. He said the prosecution needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn’t just an accident, and they didn’t.

    Kilgore said the reason they couldn’t prove that, is because it was just an accident.

    "(The law says) no person shall be found guilty of any crime committed by misfortune or accident,” Kilgore told jurors.

    He argued Harris would never intentionally hurt or kill his son, because he loved him. He said even the state’s argument about a double life doesn’t change that fact.

    "In both of these lives the state wants to tell you about, there's something that's the same, and that's that he loved that little boy," Kilgore said.

    He told jurors that Harris was already living the immoral life that he wanted to and didn’t need to get rid of his son to continue that.

    "The state wants to bury him in this filth and dirt, of his own making, so that you'll believe he is so immoral, he is so reprehensible that the could do exactly this. That's really what they're trying to say. Demeanor and dirt," Kilgore said.

    Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore gives the defense's closing argument.
    Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore gives the defense's closing argument.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    He argued that the testimony from Leanna Taylor, Harris’ ex-wife, should be clear evidence to jurors.

    "Ross ruined that woman's life. He humiliated her in front of the world. He took her son away,” Kilgore said. “Do you really think that she's gonna come in here and her best friend's gonna come in here and say anything about how much Ross loved his little boy if they didn't know that this was an accident?"


    Kilgore argued that detectives formed their theories before they even had evidence in the case. He said they spent the rest of the time searching only for evidence that fit their theory.

    "Was this investigation and prosecution a search for the truth or was it a search only for what was going to fit the state's theory?" Kilgore said. "When the detectives take the stand and they swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is it?"

    He also argued that several of the state’s witnesses weren’t completely truthful and only testified about evidence that fit their theory.

    "You've been misled. You have been misled throughout this trial," Kilgore tells jurors. "You're responsibility is to hold the state accountable."

    He said even the detective’s theories don’t match up, saying that if Harris killed his son to get out of his marriage and his life, then why was Leanna Taylor, Harris' ex-wife, also a suspect in the death.

    Kilgore told jurors that “grave suspicion” is not enough to convict Harris. He then listed 10 “reasonable doubts” and told jurors they only have to have one of them to find Harris not guilty.

    "I think it's become clear that Ross treasured Cooper and had no reason, no reason, no reason to kill him," Kilgore said.

    At the end of Kilgore's argument, Harris wept as Kilgore replayed a home video of Harris and Cooper for jurors.

    "On behalf of Ross and Brian and Carlos, we trust you," Kilgore said in closing.

    Prosecution says justice is holding Harris responsible

    After lunch, prosecutors gave the second half of their opening statement, in which they tried to debunk the defense's closing argument.

    Boring began by walking jurors through a timeline of the day Cooper died, including the texts he sent just minutes before leaving Cooper in the car.

    "There's no way he missed that child," Boring said.

    Boring told jurors that an accident doesn't apply in this case.

    "Accident only applies if there is no criminal negligence. Accident does not apply in this case," Boring tells jurors. "But ladies and gentlemen, this was not negligence, this was intentional."

    Boring said Harris was so good at hiding his double life, that no one in his life knew all the things he was doing. The defense argued that witness after witness talked about how much Harris loved his son, but they didn't know his other side.

    "He also allegedly loved Leanna and we see how that went, how he treated her," Boring said.

    Boring said all the evidence, along with common sense show that Harris is guilty.

    "This case is about justice and it's about that little boy, Cooper Harris. Today that boy would be 4 years old ... but he's not. He's not here with us because that defendant took him, that defendant took his life for his own selfish, obsessed reasons. That little boys never gonna get that chance and those chances he would have had," Boring told jurors.

    He then told jurors the chance to get justice for Cooper is up to them.

    "Who's gonna speak for Cooper?" Boring asked. "The evidence speaks for Cooper. It can't bring him back, but what can be done is justice and you as a jury have the opportunity to do that justice."

    Lawyers tell jurors about the charges

    Count 1: Malice Murder – 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.”

    Count 2: Felony Murder – 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, he 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 – Prosecutors said counts 3 and 5 go together. He said 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 – See count 2

    Count 5: 2nd degree Cruelty to Children – See count 3

    Count 6: Criminal Attempt to Commit a Felony, to wit: Sexual Exploitation of Children – 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 if jurors find Harris guilty of counts 6 through 8, Harris will “reap the whirlwind.”

    Count 7: Dissemination of Harmful Material to Minors – Prosecutors said Harris "coached a 16-year-old on how to perform oral sex” and 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 – 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.”

    What's next?

    Monday afternoon the judge charged the jury. Deliberations will begin Tuesday morning. Jurors will have a half day Tuesday so they can vote.

    You can watch the entire trial LIVE on WSBTV.com/Ross-Harris-Trial. We will have minute-by-minute coverage as well as a daily summary from the courtroom each day. Like Ross Harris Updates on Facebook and follow @RossHarrisTrial on Twitter for updates throughout the trial.

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