Father, 41, sentenced to life in prison for 2014 hot car death of his baby son has conviction OVERTURNED because jury ‘unfairly’ heard he was sexting 16-year-old girl and was cheating on his wife
- Justin Ross Harris, 41, was convicted in 2016 for the death of his toddler Cooper
- The 22-months-old died after his father forgot him in the backseat of his car for seven hours on a hot Georgia day in June 2014
- Now that murder conviction has been overturned after Georgia Supreme Court ruled evidence of sex crimes committed by Harris may have influenced the jury
Georgia Supreme Court has overturned a father’s murder conviction for leaving his infant son to die in a hot car after they found the jury was shown evidence that was ‘extremely and unfairly prejudicial.’
Justin Ross Harris, 41, was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, who died in 2014 after being left in a hot car for seven hours.
But on Wednesday, Supreme Court justices agreed that prosecutors in his 2016 trial should not have told the jury about his conviction for sexting an underage high school girl.
Prosecutors had highlighted Harris’ frequent affairs and sex crimes showed he was unhappy in his marriage and intentionally killed his son to free himself. They presented extensive evidence of extramarital sexual activities that he engaged in, including exchanging sexually explicit messages and graphic photos with women and girls and meeting some of them for sex.
While his conviction for murder was overturned, Harris’ conviction related to sex crimes against a 16-year-old girl was upheld.
Georgia Supreme Court justices argue Harris’ extensive sexual activity reports shouldn’t have been taken into the jury’s consideration in connection with Cooper’s death.
Justin Ross Harris, 41, is entitled to a new trial after some Georgia Supreme Court justices claim he was wrongfully convicted
Cooper, 22-months-old, was left in the backseat of Harris’ car for more than seven hours in June 2014
Happier times: Harris is pictured with his son and then-wife Leanna before the boy’s tragic death
His ex-wife Leanna Taylor testifies during a murder trial for her ex-husband Justin Ross Harris who is accused of intentionally killing their son in June 2014 by leaving him in the car in suburban Atlanta in 2016, in Brunswick
Harris, who was sentenced to life without parole and 31 more years for more crimes, is eligible for a new trial on the murder and child cruelty charges against him – although his conviction for sex crimes with a minor remains.
The 6-3 majority of justices believe the jury ‘heard and saw an extensive amount of improperly admitted evidence.’
The majority argued prosecutors created a narrative for the jury to believe Harris ‘intentionally’ left his son inside the car to die in the heat.
Justices also argue prosecutor’s presented ‘a substantial amount of evidence to lead the jury to answer a different and more legally problematic question: what kind of man is (Harris)?’
On the morning of June, 18, 2014, Harris reportedly told police he forgot to drop his soon off at day care before driving to his job at Home Depot in Atlanta.
Harris left Cooper strapped in the back seat seat of his vehicle for nearly seven hours as the weather reached the high 80s.
While prosecutors aimed to find Harris guilty of murder, defense attorneys said Harris adored Cooper and called his death an accident.
Defense attorneys described him as a doting 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 was ‘entitled to introduce, in detail, evidence of the nature, scope, and extent of the truly sinister motive it ascribed to Harris.’ For that reason, Bethel wrote, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the challenged evidence.’
Harris told police he forgot to drop him son off at day care before arriving to his work at Home Depot in Atlanta, Georgia
On the morning of June, 18, 2014, Harris reportedly told police he forgot to drop his soon off at day care before driving to his job at Home Depot in Atlanta