Hot-Car Death Case Will Soon Go to Jury

‘     (CN) — The man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler in a hot car to die loved himself more than his son, lead prosecutor Chuck Boring said Monday.     After 21 days of testimony, the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments in the Justin Ross Harris murder trial. Both sides presented their cases for more than an hour.     Boring hammered home Harris”s double life and constant sexting with women and underage girls proved he had a motive to kill his son, Cooper.     The morning of Cooper”s death in June 2014, Harris sent a woman a message stating “I love my son and all, but we both need escapes.”     Boring said Harris watched a video about hot cars five days before Cooper”s death.     Harris remained in the SUV for 30 seconds before getting out and had to lean over to the passenger”s side to grab his briefcase and a drink.     “Now that you”ve heard all the evidence, there is no doubt that Cooper was burned to death in that car,” Boring said.     Boring went through the eight charges Harris faces, including the sexual exploitation of a minor. He also said there was “no doubt” that Harris is guilty of criminal negligence.     Harris also faces felony murder counts and felony murder with malice.     “This isn”t a case about an adult hating a child,” Boring said. “It”s just that he loves himself and his other obsession more than that little boy.”     “This killer”s heart abandoned this child long before he died,” Boring added. “[Harris] sat there malignantly while that child cooked in that car.”     Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore attacked the lead detective in the case, Phil Stoddard of the Cobb County Police Department.     “He”d already decided the case,” Kilgore said of Stoddard. ” He”d already decided a crime had occurred. He”d already passed judgment.”     Kilgore conceded that Harris was responsible for his son”s death but did not murder Cooper.     “He has acknowledged that from day one,” Kilgore said. “He is responsible. But responsible is not the same thing as criminal.”     Kilgore said that Harris simply forgot about Cooper that day and was known to be a good father.     “Everybody that knew him said he loved that little boy more than anything,” Kilgore said.     Harris was planning a family cruise in the days leading up to Cooper”s death, which Kilgore said proved that he did not intend on killing his son.     When Kilgore showed a video of Harris playing guitar on a bed with Cooper, Harris was seen crying and wiping his face with a tissue.     Kilgore also showed the surveillance video of Harris throwing light bulbs in his car during his lunch break, noting that Stoddard had testified that Harris was in the car because it supported his theory of Harris”s guilt.     “As you can see for yourself, he”s not ”in there,”” Kilgore said. “He doesn”t have a clear view.”     While detectives said there was a “stench of death” in the vehicle, Kilgore pointed out that the claim wasn”t made until several months had passed. The detectives, he said, were just smelling what they wanted to smell.     “Because it supported their theory,” Kilgore said.     Despite their earlier claim that Harris had searched for “child free” websites on his computer, Kilgore pointed out that testimony proved that was not true.     “You”ve been misled,” Kilgore told the jury. “You have been misled. Throughout this trial.”     Harris”s cheating on his wife and his sexting other women had nothing to do with him forgetting Cooper that day, Kilgore said.     “How does Ross getting fellatio in a car in Tuscaloosa a year and a half before Cooper died, how does that have anything to do with Cooper”s death?” Kilgore said. “At all?”     Kilgore concluded his argument by showing slides to the jury of 10 points of evidence that would give them reasonable doubt, noting they would only need one to acquit his client.’

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Hot-Car Trial Witness Testifies on Forgetting

‘     (CN) — A memory expert testifying Thursday in Georgia”s hot car death trial said it was “absolutely” possible defendant Justin Ross Harris did not intentionally leave his toddler in a hot SUV to die in June 2014, but was instead distracted and simply forgot to drop his son off at preschool.     Dr. Gene Brewer explained that “prospective memory failures” can be caused by internal and external factors.     Brewer said that a phone call would be an external distraction while fatigue and stress would qualify as internal distractions.     Harris, who faces murder charges, sent an email expressing his dissatisfaction with his job performance the night before 22-month-old Cooper Harris”s death.     Cooper woke Harris early the next morning, which Brewer said could have caused Harris to be fatigued.          Brewer faced a tough cross-examination by lead prosecutor Chuck Boring, who grilled him about the extent of his knowledge of the case.     Boring brought up Brewer”s assertion that there was nothing unique about Harris”s case compared to other incidents of parents leaving their children in cars.     Boring pointed out the fact that Harris had been sexting a number of women that day, which didn”t happen in other cases.     No one who saw Harris that day said he looked tired, Boring said.     “You didn”t talk to these witnesses,” Boring said. “You just had what the defense gave you.”     Brewer responded that he was also given information by prosecutors.     Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore then re-examined Brewer, asking him if he remembered everything provided to him in the case. Brewer said no.     Brewer was asked if Harris was smart, to which he replied yes. Kilgore followed up by asking if smart people are immune to memory failures.     “That makes them in no way immune to forgetting,” he said. “The very best of us are not immune from having failures in anything that we do.”     Brewer said it is possible to have a memory failure without distractions.     Boring closed out Brewer”s testimony by asking him if people can have self-inflicted memory lapses and pointing out that Harris had stayed up late the night before Cooper”s death sexting women.     “He didn”t choose to be tired,” Brewer said. “He didn”t choose to be negligent.” ‘

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Porn Takes Center Stage |at Hot Car Death Trial

‘     (CN) — A close friend of the Georgia man accused of leaving his toddler in a hot car to die testified on Wednesday that Justin Ross Harris asked him to monitor his internet use because he was addicted to porn.     Billy Kirkpatrick of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said Harris came to him about his addiction to pornography and asked him to be his “accountability partner.”     He was aware of the impact Harris”s pornography problem had on his marriage to his now ex-wife Leanna Taylor, who testified on Monday and Tuesday.     “She was obviously devastated about that,” he said.     While Kirkpatrick knew about Harris”s internet activity, he wasn”t aware of Harris”s exchanging lewd messages with women and underage girls or of his sexual trysts with prostitutes.     Kirkpatrick said he “dropped the ball” on monitoring Harris and felt like he was ruining his marriage.     He described Harris as a unique personality who “never shuts up” when he”s in public and is “incredibly friendly, very social and always the life of the party.”     “He loved being the center of attention,” Kirkpatrick said.     Sometimes, he added, “it”s very difficult to put your finger on his uniqueness.”     When Harris worked as a police dispatcher in Tuscaloosa, he used police jargon in conversations.     “He would randomly talk about crimes, but he would do it in code,” Kirkpatrick said.     Earlier in the trial, prosecutors said Harris”s use of the term “malice” during his initial questioning was suspicious.’

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Accused Weeps As Ex-Wife Testifies in Hot Car Trial

‘     (CN) — The ex-wife of the Georgia man who left their toddler in a hot car to die testified Monday that they exchanged text messages about their son on the day of his death.     Leanna Taylor, who was married to defendant Justin Ross Harris for nine years, was the first witness called by the defense in the hot car death trial.     Harris is accused of intentionally leaving their child in his SUV to die and faces an eight-count indictment. At times during Taylor”s testimony, he held his head on his hand and appeared to be crying.     “When are you getting my buddy?” one of his text messages said, referring to 22-month-old Cooper Harris on June 18, 2014. Taylor said they spoke on the phone earlier that day to discuss who would pick Cooper up from the daycare, which was near Harris”s office.     When Taylor arrived at the day care, she found out that Cooper hadn”t checked in that day. She went to look for him, and a teacher asked her what she was doing there.     “Cooper is not here,” Taylor was told.     “I thought she was joking,” said Taylor, who began to panic.     A daycare employee accompanied her to Harris”s office at the Home Depot headquarters, but the car wasn”t there.     Taylor said she repeatedly tried to call Harris, but his phone went straight to voicemail. At one point a daycare teacher called her and said “I think it”s time to call the police.”     “I was in complete denial of the situation,” she said.     Then, Taylor said, a detective from the Cobb County Police Department called her.     “I could just tell they knew something,” Taylor said.     After breaking the news of her son”s death, the detectives took Taylor home and asked for a key. They told her they were going to obtain a search warrant. Taylor was then taken to the police station.     Taylor said Ross began “chatting up” the case”s lead detective, Phil Stoddard. She said it was “very typical Ross.”     Earlier in her testimony, Taylor described Harris as an involved father who split child care duties with her. They took Cooper to the park and several Braves games.     “He wanted to be the one pushing (Cooper) on the swing,” Taylor said of Harris.     Harris would sometimes get frustrated with Cooper, but Taylor said he never displayed any malice toward him.     Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore asked Taylor several pointed questions about problems in her marriage, which she said was purely sexual.     “There was no sexual relationship,” Taylor said. “It was very forced.”     Harris admitted to Taylor that he was addicted to pornography, and they sought counseling at their church. On a number of occasions, Taylor found messages Harris had sent to other women from his phone and confronted him.     Taylor didn”t know about Harris”s cheating and said that she would have left him if she had known he had sex with an escort.     Taylor said she had a hard time believing her son had died.     “Sometimes,” Taylor said tearfully, “it still doesn”t feel real.” ‘

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‘No Mistrial in Case Over Baby”s Hot-Car Death’

‘     (CN) — The judge in the hot car death trial denied the defense”s motion for a mistrial Thursday morning after jurors viewed the SUV where a toddler was left to die.     Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore called the viewing a “disaster” and argued his client, Justin Ross Harris, would not be able to receive a fair trial.     Kilgore argued that the different heights of the jurors gave them different vantage points than Harris when he stood outside his car the day his 22-month-old son Cooper died.     Kilgore said the jurors substituted themselves for Harris to recreate the scene.     “The defense now wants to sit on their hands,” lead prosecutor Chuck Boring said.     Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark said the jurors should have had the right to open and close the doors themselves and go inside the vehicle.     “An argument could be made that it was restrictive for them,” the judge said.     The prosecution said it plans to rest its case on Friday.’

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Jurors to See SUV |In Which Child Died

‘     (CN) — Jurors in the hot car death trial will be able to view the SUV a toddler died in on Thursday morning.     Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark decided Wednesday the jurors will be permitted to circle the SUV twice with the doors closed and twice with the doors open.     They will be allowed to examine the vehicle for up to five minutes, but they will be barred from touching or sitting inside the vehicle.     Wednesday morning saw the end of the tense cross-examination of Phil Stoddard, the case”s lead detective.     Stoddard testified that Harris”s former wife Leanna Taylor was not deemed a suspect in the case after detectives seized her laptop, which had more than 30,000 pictures of their son, Cooper.     “We did not find any evidence to rise to the part of probable cause to arrest Leanna Harris,” Stoddard said, though he initially perceived her stoic demeanor to be suspicious.     “You were looking for a conspiracy, weren”t you?” lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore asked at the end of the cross-examination.     Stoddard, who had been on the stand since Friday, said Harris only began showing emotion when he found out he was being arrested, and he complained about the conditions in his Cobb County Jail cell.     The next witness, Cobb County Police Department Detective David Raissi, testified that he began recording Harris after hearing his reaction to finding out he was being charged with child cruelty and murder.     Harris raised a red flag in Raissi”s mind when he said the phrase “malicious intent.”     “He began debating why he was being charged with a crime,” Raissi said, later adding, “I thought it was strange that he was using that terminology.”     Kilgore said that Harris has a brother who is a police officer in Alabama as a reason why he would have been familiar with the terminology.     But Raissi responded that Alabama does not use the terms malice or malicious intent in its laws.     Walter Pineda, an expert in video analysis, testified next. He enhanced surveillance video of the office parking lot where Harris left Cooper for seven hours on June 18, 2014. The defense said the enhanced footage showed Harris”s head was not inside of his car when he returned to throw in light bulbs he had purchased during his lunch break.     Detective Carey Grimstead was brought back to the stand to explain how he placed the car seat back in the correct position in the SUV. He showed the jury photos of the vehicle with the car seat inside. A life sized doll was used to depict the child.     The defense argued that the car seat had been taken in and out of the car so many times during the investigation that the measurements could have changed.     The trial will resume on Thursday after jurors see the SUV in the morning.’

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Lead Detective Grilled |In Hot Car Death Case

‘     (CN) — Tensions were high in a Georgia courtroom as the lead detective in the hot car death case faced a tough and at times contentious cross examination.     Maddox Kilgore, the lead defense attorney for Justin Ross Harris, got Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard to admit that the defendant never actively researched hot car deaths on the Internet, which contradicts assertions he had made in the early stages of the case.     Harris, who is charged with intentionally leaving his toddler in a hot car to die in June 2014, did view a video of a veterinarian talking about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars, but the defense contends he only came across it on the social media website Reddit.     Kilgore also grilled Stoddard about evidence suggesting that Harris was planning to take his son Cooper on a family cruise in the days leading up to the child”s death.     On June 9, 2014, Harris researched the cost of bringing a child on a cruise, and he exchanged messages with a travel agent on June 17, the day before Cooper died.     Kilgore asked Stoddard if that was consistent with someone who wanted to kill their child. Lead prosecutor Chuck Boring objected to the question, which Judge Mary Staley Clark sustained.     Kilgore then accused Stoddard of not contacting the travel agent himself during his investigation” because it didn”t fit your theory.”     The prosecution again objected, and prompting Kilgore to observe that Stoddard “has done everything he could to push (his theory) out” at every opportunity. The judge ordered that his comment be struck.’

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