A Georgia man sentenced to life in prison for leaving his toddler in a hot car to die in 2014’s murder conviction was overturned by his state’s high court.
The Georgia Supreme Court, in a statement released Wednesday, said evidence that Justin Ross Harris intentionally and maliciously left his 22-month-old son Cooper in his car to die was “far from overwhelming” and that the jury rather likely to have swung in. their conviction through extensive evidence presented about Harris’ extramarital affairs.
“This evidence did little or nothing to answer the key question of [Harris’] intent when he walked away from Cooper, ”Chief Justice David Nahmias wrote about Harris’ documented communication with six women on the day his son died.
Nahmias said this evidence “is likely to lead the jurors to conclude [Harris] was the kind of man who engaged in other morally repulsive behaviors (such as leaving his child to die painfully in a hot car) and who deserved punishment, even if the jurors were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he deliberately killed Cooper do not have.”
Harris was convicted of murder and charges of first- and second-degree cruelty to a child. He was also convicted of a criminal attempt to commit sexual exploitation of a child because of explicit texts he sent to a teenage girl. For those sex crimes, Nahmias said Harris is “obviously guilty.”
The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it plans to file a motion for reconsideration in Harris’ case.
The then-married father insisted that he only accidentally forgot to drop off his son at the daycare before leaving for work on the morning of June 18, 2014. Cooper held his car seat inside Harris’ vehicle for nearly seven hours as temperatures soared. 100 degrees. He eventually died of hyperthermia, the court heard.
Witnesses and police testified during the trial that Harris either showed little reaction when he found his son dead in his car or that he reacted hysterically as if it had been staged, although these individuals also testified that they did not know him or how he responded to it. trauma.
Prosecutors also told how Harris was unhappy with his marriage and that he only stayed married to his wife because of his son. They said he was motivated to kill his child so he could divorce and enter into other sexual relationships.
The judge argued that there was minimal evidence to support this motive.
“We do not know if [Harris] planned and carried out the horrific murder of his 22-month-old son by making him suffer and die slowly in a hot vehicle, or rather than [Harris] “made a tragic, fatal mistake by forgetting that the child he loved and cherished almost everything was in the back seat,” said Nahmias.
A Harris defense attorney during his trial did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Wednesday.