On June 18, 2014, Georgia resident Justin Ross Harris left his 22-month old son Cooper in the back seat of the family’s SUV for seven hours. Due to sweltering temperatures inside the vehicle, the child died.
Harris was arrested that night, and said he accidentally forgot to drop Cooper off at day care before going to work at his job as a web developer at Home Depot. Prosecutors argued, instead, that Harris plotted the killing intentionally, in order to escape his responsibilities as a father.
This past Monday, following a five-week trial, a jury found Justin Ross Harris guilty on every count with which he was charged, including cruelty to children, felony murder, and malice murder. Malice murder carries a sentence of life with or without the possibility of parole.
In the course of the investigation, authorities discovered that Harris was engaged in a “double life,” maintaining multiple relationships with other females both online and in the flesh, including at least one prostitute and one underage girl.
On the day Cooper died, Harris was said to have exchanged sexually explicit texts and photos with six different females, including a teenage girl.
Leanna Taylor, Cooper’s mother and Harris’s ex-wife, testified that Harris was a devoted father whom she does not believe would have ever intentionally hurt their son. The jury concluded otherwise.
Publicity leading up to the trial proved so intense that Harris’s defense team successfully argued for a change of venue, reasoning that it would be impossible to find an impartial jury in Cobb County, where Harris lived and Cooper died.
The judge scheduled sentencing for December 5. Harris has 30 days to appeal the verdict, which his lawyers said they will do.
Main photo: Justin Ross Harris [Cobb County Police]