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Georgia man won't be retried in hot car case, Cobb County DA decides

Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

Harris was separately indicted in March 2016 for possessing lewd photographs of two underage girls, sending nude photos of himself to those girls and engaging in sexually explicit chats. But the DA’s office has similarly decided not to try Harris on those charges. A court document also signed by Leonard on Thursday said the case was no longer being pursued “at the request, or due to the unavailability, of the alleged victim.”

On June 18, 2014, Harris left home with Cooper to drop him off at day care before going to work at Home Depot. They stopped to eat breakfast at a Chick-fil-A. But Harris later told police he forgot to drop off Cooper and mistakenly left him in his rear-facing car seat in the back seat of his SUV in the company parking lot.

Within hours, Cooper died from heat stroke. Harris told police he realized his mistake when, driving away from work, he noticed his dead son in his car seat.

Harris’s case attracted so much publicity the trial was transferred to Glynn County, where he was convicted. Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But in a 6-3 decision almost a year ago, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction, saying Harris did not receive a fair trial because days of testimony detailing his extramarital relationships should not have been allowed.

“The state convincingly demonstrated that (Harris) was a philanderer, a pervert and even a sexual predator,” Chief Justice David Nahmias wrote. “This evidence did little if anything to answer the key question of (Harris’s) intent when he walked away from Cooper.”


But it likely led jurors to conclude Harris was the kind of person who “who would engage in other morally repulsive conduct (like leaving his child to die painfully in a hot car) and who deserved punishment, even if the jurors were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he purposefully killed Cooper,” Nahmias wrote.

Harris’s attorneys said that during the nine years they represented him, they learned tragic hot car deaths often happen while the child is in the care of a loving parent.

“Ross was no different,” their statement said. “He deeply loved Cooper. Ross is no doubt relieved at the dismissal of the charges against him, but he is also thankful that today’s dismissal may begin to restore Cooper’s legacy as a child much loved by his parents.”

(Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this story.)

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