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Judge Sets Appellate Hearing for Man Convicted of Murder in Hot Car Death of Son — What to Know

Justin Ross Harris

A judge recently set the court date for an appeal in the case Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia man convicted of murder in the hot car death of 22-month-old son Cooper. The defendant formally filed for his appeal back in January 2017, about a month after he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

1. The Date: December 14-16, 2020

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark scheduled a hearing on Harris’s motion for a new trial, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

2. Complicated Case

Back in 2017, Harris’s appeal was likely to take a while. Well, it’s 2020. Defense lawyer Mitch Durham said in March that this was going to take a while because court transcripts spanned thousands of pages.

“We are still going through it,” he told the judge at the time, during a status hearing.

Even Cobb prosecutor Chuck Boring sounded understanding.

“Because of the nature of this case and the issues involved and the length of the trial, it’s not out of the ordinary for an appeal like this to take so long,” he said.

3. Convicted in 2016

Harris was found guilty of charges of murder, cruelty to children, distribution of obscene material, and sexual exploitation of a child. He maintained that he forget to leave his son at a daycare, and went to work. Cooper remained in the vehicle. This wasn’t a case of murder, according to the defendant’s account. This was a case of absentmindedness: an accident. The prosecution asserted that Harris ended his child’s life so he–a prolific cheater–could be free to have relationships with women besides his wife.

4. The Defense’s Problems with the State’s Case

The defense filed multiple motions for mistrial during the case. Matters included:

  • Judge Clark limited them from cross-examining police officer Brett Gallimore on the discrepancy between his report and actual testimony. At first, the witness said Harris was distraught at the scene of the child’s death, but at trial, he claimed that he never saw emotion from the defendant. The police report was not admitted to evidence on this matter.
  • A search warrant used in the investigation was based on an inaccurate probable cause affidavit, and therefore should’ve kept certain evidence from trial, the defense asserted.
  • As you may have noticed from the charges, Harris was convicted for sending a picture of his genitals to an underage girl, and sending her sexual texts. The defense argued that this case should’ve been treated separately from the murder case because it was prejudicial.

5. His Ex-Wife Has Argued It Was an Accident

Harris’s ex-wife Leanne Taylor has said that he failed to protect their son, but she suggested it was an accident. Murder was out of character for her former spouse.

“There was no evidence in our relationship that suggested that he would harm anyone, much less his own son,” she told Good Morning America in a 2017 report.

[Mugshot via Georgia Department of Corrections]

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