The trial of Georgia father Justin Ross Harris, accused of deliberately orchestrating the hot car death of his toddler son, began on Monday. Justin Ross Harris’ 22-month-old son Cooper died a slow, tragic death in June 2014; that’s when he was left in a hot car, in a near-record heat, by his father. The toddler reportedly spent hours slowly dying in his dad’s vehicle while Justin Ross Harris worked, attended a corporate luncheon and even headed to a movie, reports CNN.
That little Cooper was left by in a hot car by Justin Ross Harris is not disputed. However, according to the Harris’ defense team, the Georgia father left his young son in the car by accident, by mistake, after he forgot to drop him off at daycare.
Prosecutors have a much different version of events. According to them, Justin Ross Harris deliberately left his young son in his hot car. Further, they allege that Harris did so because he was sick of being saddled with the responsibilities of being a husband and father.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of cherubic young Cooper Harris, the world believed that the little boy had died as the result of a preventable accident. It initially appeared that investigators into the incident felt the same way; three months later, that perception changed. That was when Justin Ross Harris was initially indicted for murder in connection with the hot car death of his young son.
According to prosecutors, 35-year-old Harris deliberately left his son to die in his excruciatingly hot Atlanta car so that he could purse extramarital sexual interests. In fact, as the BBC reports, Justin Ross Harris is believed to have been engaged in “sexting” conversations while his young son was slowly dying in his hot car.
While little Cooper was left unattended and overheating in Justin Ross Harris’ car, the temperature in Atlanta climbed to nearly 90 degrees.
“A Georgia man charged with murder over his toddler son’s death in a hot car ‘chose the worst imaginable death for his child,’ prosecutors have said.”
Reportedly, Harris left his son in his hot car for the entirety of his work shift. He even left his job at Home Depot Corporate to attend a lunch event with co-workers while his son was trapped in his car seat in his SUV. At the end of his shift, Harris allegedly began driving to a movie before he finally noticed his young son’s lifeless body in the backseat, still strapped securely and unable to escape.
He then pulled over in a Chick-fil-A parking lot, reportedly yelling and screaming about his son’s death, before law enforcement arrived.
First responders immediately claimed that they couldn’t believe that Justin Ross Harris didn’t realize his son was in the vehicle’s backseat, citing an immediate and overwhelming “stench” when they entered the SUV.
According to prosecutors in the case, some of the recipients of Harris’ sexually explicit text messages were younger than the legal age of consent. Further, prosecutor Chuck Boring told the court on Monday that Justin Ross Harris’ Internet browsing history clearly indicates that he was looking for information that would have helped with his plot to kill murder his toddler son.
“The evidence will show that he had no doubt that he would get away with this.”
Justin Ross Harris has been described as “devout” and “churchgoing,” but the prosecution in the case against him claim that this demeanor was nothing more than a flimsy facade. A facade that hid a chronic adulterer who frequently cheated on his wife, was unhappy with his marriage and (perhaps most tellingly) sick and tired of being a father.
Prosecutors say that both his Internet browsing history and text messages that Justin Ross Harris sent while his son was literally dying paint a clear picture of a father who wanted to be free from his parental responsibilities. By any means necessary, even if that meant slowly and tortuously murdering his toddler using a hot car as his weapon of choice.
“I love my son and all but we both need escapes.”
The murder case against Justin Ross Harris received so much local publicity that his defense team successfully fought for a change of venue for the trial, which was initially scheduled to begin months ago. Rather than being tried in Atlanta, Harris’ is facing a jury of 12 members and four alternates in Brunswick, Georgia.
In the aftermath of the murder charges that have been levied against Justin Ross Harris in connection to the hot car death of his young son, the accused saw his marriage end in divorce. According to his ex-wife (and Cooper’s mother) Leanna Harris, she knew that her husband had been habitually unfaithful. For a time after her son’s unthinkably painful hyperthermia-related death, it appeared that she would remain united with her husband.
However, she filed for divorce early in 2016, citing a marriage that she called “irretrievably broken.” Despite the feelings she publicly expressed regarding the state of her marriage, Justin Ross Harris’ ex-wife is actually expected to testify on his behalf for the defense.
Initially, Harris faced two counts of felony murder and cruelty to children in the first degree. In March of 2016, prosecutors added a plethora of additional charges in the case against him, including two counts of sexual exploitation of minors. The newest charges that Harris is facing are related to his alleged sexual “sexting” activities with minor girls around the time of his son’s death.
Cobb County prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for Justin Ross Harris, even if he is convicted of the hot car death of his young son.
[Featured Image by Cobb County Sheriff’s Department]