Justin Harris Trial: Defense Asks For Change Of Venue In Hot Car Death

On Friday, Day 15 of the Justin Harris trial, defense has suddenly requested a change of venue. According to the New York Daily News, it’s because most of the potential jurors think he’s guilty of the 2014 hot car death of his 2-year-old son, Cooper. After three weeks, there are 41 qualified jurors of the 42 needed. Jury selection was coming to an end when the defense filed the motion.

“In defendant counsel’s judgment, an impartial jury cannot be obtained in the county where the crime is alleged to have been committed. From the questioning of potential jurors and answers provided by them, it is apparent that due to pretrial publicity in this matter, an impartial jury cannot be obtained in this county as there is a pervasive and persistent opinion that defendant is guilty of the crimes alleged against him in this indictment.”

Harris, 35, claims to have left his son in the car by accident. He was supposed to drop Cooper off at the daycare by his work, which was his regular routine, but instead, Cooper baked in the hot Georgia sun for seven hours. Meanwhile, Harris was busy spending his day at the Home Depot where he worked sexting six different women, including a 15-year-old girl. He was aware she was underage and still sent her pictures of his erect penis. He is now facing eight charges of sexually exploiting three underage girls. This, the defense claims, is now public knowledge and it’s hard to find people who haven’t been tainted by this information.

Justin Harris claims to have realized on his way home that his son was still in the car and he pulled over frantically to check on him. Witnesses say as he pulled the toddler out of his car seat, he was yelling and others came over to see what they could do to help. Witnesses say they tended to Cooper, attempting resuscitation while Harris just paced and said, “What have I done? What have I done? My son is dead!”

Cobb County police Detective Phillip Stoddard, lead investigator, said that Harris told him he couldn’t reach anyone on his phone, though it showed Harris made three phone calls — one lasting six minutes — but none to 911. When an officer arrived on the scene, the officer asked him to get off the phone. Justin Harris said, “F*** you!”

As police investigated Justin Harris’ personal and work computers and his cell phone, they found that he had done searches for a child-free life and looked at videos about hot car deaths. Prosecutors think this was motive for the cruel death of little Cooper.

Leanna Harris watches the bond hearing of Justin Harris

Justin’s wife, Leanna, who had stood by her man, divorced him in February. She states that she continues to believe in the innocence of Justin, but that there marriage is “irretrievably broken.” There is speculation that Leanna was also involved in the death of their son. She asked her husband a simple question in the interrogation room.

“Did you say too much?”

An odd thing for a grieving mother to say to her husband. Leanna’s routine was to pick up Cooper in the afternoons. When she arrived and they told him he wasn’t there, she said, “Ross must have left him in the car… There’s no other explanation. Ross must have left him in the car.” Investigators found that be unsettling.

Leanna’s demeanor in the courtroom didn’t help her image, either. She was unemotional, detached, chewing on gum. It was also discovered that Leanna had made internet searches regarding hot car deaths, but she claimed it was her “worst fear.” No charges have been brought against Leanna.

On Friday, one of the jurors questioned was a woman who had 11 grandchildren. She was one of many jurors who had strong feelings about his guilt, and didn’t feel like she could be impartial during the trial. Her opinion of Justin Ross Harris was clear, according the Atlantic Journal Constitution.

“He left his son in the car and went to work and the child died. He was having an affair, just wanted to get rid of the kid.”

Most jurors questioned found it hard to believe that someone could forget their child in the car. Prosecutors claim Harris was unhappy in his marriage and wanted out. Defense attorneys argue that the death of the toddler was a tragic mistake.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley will hear arguments for the change of venue on Monday.

[Photo by Kelly J. Huff/Associated Press Images]