Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia man convicted earlier this year of murdering his two-year-old son by leaving him to die in a hot car, has been sentenced to life in prison, CNN is reporting.
On November 14, as NBC News reported at the time, Harris was convicted of murder for leaving 22-month-old Cooper strapped into his car seat for seven hours on a hot summer day. Prosecutors had maintained that Harris intentionally murdered his son, while Harris’ defense had maintained that the death was an unfortunate accident. A jury agreed with the prosecution and convicted Harris, then 35, or murder. He’s spent the last several weeks behind bars, awaiting his sentencing.
— AJC (@ajc) December 5, 2016
Harris faced a maximum sentence of life plus 42 years, the death penalty having been taken off the table. According to WSB-TV (Atlanta), the judge in the case sentenced Harris to life plus 36 years, subtracting two years for time served for the time Harris has spent behind bars before and during his trial.
— AL.com (@aldotcom) December 4, 2016
On June 18, 2014, Harris drove to work in the suburban Atlanta office building where he worked, two-year-old Cooper strapped into his car seat in the back. Once at work, Harris left Cooper in the back seat while temperatures outside reached in excess of 90 degrees. The toddler had tried, and failed, to free himself as he died of hyperthermia — literally being baked alive. Police would say that, in his terror, Cooper scratched his face.
Meanwhile, Harris was inside the building, going about his day. One particularly egregious aspect of this crime was the fact that, as his son died horribly a few feet away, Harris was “sexting” — that is, sharing sexually explicit texts with various women. At least one person with whom Harris was texting was an underage girl.
Seven hours later, Harris pulled the lifeless body of his son from the SUV.
Mr. Harris had tried to play off the incident as a tragic accident, but his story didn’t add up, according to the Associated Press. Police investigating Harris’ home found evidence on his computer that Justin had searched for such terms as “how long does it take a child to die in a hot car,” “childfree lifestyle,” and “how to survive in prison.” Prosecutors allege that Harris and his wife, Leanna, didn’t want to be parents anymore and that Justin killed Cooper so they wouldn’t have to deal with him.
According to this report from the Inquisitr, Justin’s wife, Leanna Harris, has also faced scrutiny in Cooper’s death. For example, when confronted with news of Cooper’s death, Mrs. Harris allegedly acted as if she had seen it coming.
“Ross must have left him in the car. There’s no other explanation.”
Since Cooper’s death, Leanna has divorced Justin and now goes by Leanna Taylor. As of this writing, Leanna Harris has not bee charged with any crimes.
Harris’ defense attorney, Maddox Kilgore, insisted that Cooper’s death was nothing but an indescribably tragic accident. Kilgore told the jury that Harris’ behavior in the weeks and days leading up to Cooper’s death does not paint a picture of a man about to murder his son. In fact, said Kilgore, Harris had recently (before Cooper’s death) booked a cruise for his family, and had hired a real estate agent, and was looking for homes with a big yard for Cooper to play in.
“Is that something a wild, childless bachelor wants? He’s planning for a future with his son.”
Do you believe that Justin Ross Harris got the right sentence for murdering his son in a hot car?
[Featured Image by Kathryn Ingall/The Marietta Daily Journal, Pool via AP]