Not Guilty Plea to Murder Charges in Hot Car Death Trial

Man Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Charges for Son’s Hot Car Death

hot car deathA Georgia man whose 22-month-old son died after spending a whole day in a hot car in June this year has officially pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

In early September, Justin Ross Harris was officially indicted on murder charges for the death of his toddler son, Cooper, in June. Harris was arrested on June 18th after he pulled over in a parking lot because his son was unresponsive in the back seat of Harris’s car. Initially, Harris claimed that he forgot that his son was in the vehicle – he should have dropped the child off at day care earlier that morning, but instead, the child was left in his car seat throughout the blistering Georgia summer day and eventually, the child died of heatstroke. However, investigators found that Harris had taken his son to breakfast at Chik-Fil-A that morning, and had returned to his car at least once over the course of his work-day.

Witnesses in the parking lot also offered varying accounts of Harris’s emotional state. Some told authorities that Harris seemed unemotional, like he did not care about his child; others said that they saw Harris as distraught and grieving.

Evidence also shows that both Harris parents researched heatstroke death on the internet before Cooper’s death. On the day of the child’s heatstroke death, Leanna went to Cooper’s daycare center to pick him up and, when told the child had never appeared, said, “Ross must have left him in the car.” When witnesses tried to tell her multiple things could have happened to the toddler, she was insistent that her husband had left their son in his hot vehicle.

“During an interview with Justin, he stated that he recently researched, through the Internet, child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur,” according to a sworn statement in the warrant. “Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen.”

Harris has already pleaded not guilty to charges of felony murder and second-degree child cruelty related to Cooper’s heatstroke death. On Friday, October 17th, Harris’s attorney waived a formal arraignment and entered a not guilty plea for the new first-degree murder charges.

Harris also faces charges of sexual harassment involving women he sexted, including some who were considered minors at the time of their sexual involvement with Harris. Prosecutors have implied that Harris’s unhappy marriage was one of the motives for Harris to murder his son.

Harris’s wife, Leanne, has stood by her husband so far. Although she may have also researched hot car and heatstroke deaths online, no formal criminal charges have been brought against her.

The Strom Law Firm Prosecutes Criminals On Behalf of Murder Victims

If you or a loved one are the victims of a serious crime, including child endangerment, kidnapping, or murder, it is important that you take the person who hurt you to court – whether it is a Georgia state criminal trial, or personal injury lawsuit. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have been based in Columbia, SC for 16 years, and are also licensed to practice in Georgia and New York. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so do not hesitate to contact us for help. 803.252.4800