Man guilty in death of toddler son left in hot SUV
>> A Georgia man whose toddler son died in a hot car was found guilty of both malice and felony murder on Monday by a jury tasked with weighing a month of dueling testimony over whether the child’s father left him to perish on purpose or made a fatal mistake.
Justin Ross Harris, 35, who showed little emotion as the verdict was read, had been on trial since Oct. 3 in the death of his son, Cooper.
The 22-month-old boy died after being left for hours in the back of Harris’ SUV on June 18, 2014. Harris said he forgot to drop his son off at day care that morning and drove straight to his job as a web developer for Home Depot, not realizing Cooper was still in his car seat.
Soon afterward, investigators found evidence that Harris was having sexual relationships — both online banter and in-person affairs — with numerous women, including a prostitute and a teenager. Prosecutors charged Harris with malice murder, saying he intentionally killed his son in order to escape the responsibilities of family life.
Harris was also charged with felony murder, which required no proof of intent to kill — just that Cooper died as a result of his father committing the felony of cruelty to children. Malice murder carries a prison term of life with or without parole.
Prosecutors argued Harris must have known Cooper was in the car. He drove less than two minutes to work after strapping the child into his car seat when they finished breakfast at a Chick-fil-A restaurant just over a half-mile from Harris’ office. Parking lot surveillance video showed Harris also went to his car after lunch and tossed in some light bulbs he had purchased, though he never got inside.