Murder conviction overturned in Georgia hot car death case

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s highest court on Wednesday overturned the murder and child abuse convictions against a man whose infant son died after leaving him in a hot car for hours, saying the jury saw evidence “extremely and unfairly harmful” used to be.

Justin Ross Harris, 41, was convicted in November 2016 on eight counts, including willful murder in the death of his 22-month-old son Cooper. A judge sentenced him to life without parole and to 32 years in prison for other crimes.

All Georgia Supreme Court justices agreed there was enough evidence to support Harris’s convictions, but the majority opinion of Chief Justice David Nahmias says much of the evidence linked to Harris’s sexual activities should not have been allowed. be admitted and may improperly influence the jury. The ruling means that Harris is entitled to a new trial against him for murder and child abuse.

The Supreme Court upheld Harris’ convictions for three sex offenses committed against a 16-year-old girl that Harris had not appealed.

The Cobb County District Attorney’s office, which has been prosecuting the case, and an attorney for Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Prosecutors argued that Harris was unhappy in his marriage and deliberately killed his son to free himself. To support this theory, they presented extensive evidence of extramarital sexual activities he engaged in, including exchanging sexually explicit messages and graphic photos with women and girls and meeting some of them for sex.

The 6-3 majority opinion says the jury has “heard and seen an extensive body of unlawfully admitted evidence”. It says that while prosecutors portrayed Harris as a man who “willfully and maliciously” abandoned his child to die in the summer heat, they also presented “a substantial body of evidence to lead the jury to find a different and more legally problematic question: what kind of man is (Harris)?”

Harris, who moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to the Atlanta area for work in 2012, told police he forgot to drop his son off at daycare on the morning of June 18, 2014, while going straight to his job as a web developer for Home drove. Depot without realizing that Cooper was still in his car seat.

Cooper died after spending about seven hours in the back seat of the vehicle outside his father’s office in suburban Atlanta, where temperatures reached at least the high 80s that day.

Defense lawyers described him as a loving father and said the boy’s death was a tragic accident.

Justice Charlie Bethel wrote a partial dissent that was joined by Justice Shawn LaGrua and Justice Verda Colvin. He said the state “had the right to provide detailed evidence of the nature, magnitude and magnitude of the truly sinister motive it attributed to Harris.” For that reason, Bethel wrote, the court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the disputed evidence.

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