No possibility for parole.
In the summer of 2014, Justin Ross Harris left his 22-month-old son Cooper in the car for seven hours as he went to work. Harris claimed he forgot to drop Cooper off at daycare, but prosecutors revealed he sexted with numerous women, including the day his son died. A grand jury indicted Harris in September 2014.
On Tuesday, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced Harris to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Harris also received another 32 years, to be served consecutively, for convictions on four other counts.
Harris, 36, who appeared in an orange jumpsuit with his wrists shackled at his waist, cast his head slightly downward as the sentence was handed down. He briefly closed his eyes but offered little other reaction.
In addition to the life term, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark gave Harris a 20-year sentence on a conviction for first-degree cruelty to children and another 10 years for sexual exploitation of children. Those charges stemmed from a finding that Harris tried to convince a minor to text him photos of her genitalia.
Harris also received a year each on two misdemeanor counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors, also related to his texts.
Judge Clark said:
“What factually was a horrendous horrific experience for this 22-month old child who had been placed in the trust of his father and in violation and dereliction of duty to that child, if not love of that child, callously walked away and left that child in a hot car in June in Georgia in the summer to swelter and die,” she said.
“Except for the fact that the defendant has no prior criminal record, there is no mitigating fact or circumstance in this case,” Clark said, before announcing the sentence. “This court finds particularly that the defendant intentionally and unnecessarily in a wanton manner, caused and inflicted upon Cooper Harris unnecessary and wanton severe physical and mental pain and agony.”
As she spoke, Clark appeared at times to try to restrain her emotions. She told Harris what he had done was “a violation and dereliction of duty to that child if not love of that child” as he “callously walked away” from his son in the car two years ago.
“The state’s recommendation is the very least that anyone could deem just under the cirumcstances of this case,” Clark said.
She called Harris up to the front of the courtroom just before announcing the sentence.
“My final observation is this, Mr. Harris,” Clark said. “I went back and reviewed and thought about your statement to the police and your statement to your wife when you were taken into custody. It stood out to me that in both of those you [stated you] wished you would be an advocate so that people would never do this again to your children. And I would say, perhaps not in the way that you intended, that you in fact have accomplished that goal.”
The jurors found Harris guilty last month. The prosecution said “that Harris was ‘driven by his own selfishness’ and that Cooper died in the most tortuous, horrific, unimaginable way possible.'” I could explain everything, but I’ll link you to The Washington Post that describes how Cooper died. The absolute worst.
The defense insists Harris had a lapse of judgement and forgot about his child. He put Cooper in the car, intending to bring him to daycare, but drove to Chik-Fil-A for breakfast before heading to Home Depot’s corporate offices for work. Harris claims that he deviated from his normal morning routine, which caused him to forget about Cooper. The prosecution pointed out that “the Chick-fil-A was less than a mile away from the Home Depot.”
But the prosecution provided evidence that Harris routinely sexted with other women, even underage girls. Records show that he exchange lewd texts on the day Cooper died. Investigators even discovered that Harris “had watched a viral video online in which a veterinarian demonstrates to pet owners the effects of being left in a hot car” only five days before the murder.
Harris’s lawyers said “they intend to file a motion for a new trial.”DONATE
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