Death penalty for Justin Ross Harris a strong possibility - CBS46 News

Legal expert: Death penalty for Justin Ross Harris a strong possibility

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One day after Justin Ross Harris was indicted on eight counts related to the hot car death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, an Atlanta defense attorney says the district attorney in Cobb County would only have sought the charge of malice murder if he thought he had a chance to get a conviction.

A conviction on that count would pave the way for Harris to receive the death penalty. He is accused of leaving his son locked in a hot car to die, while he was at work.

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"I've known (Cobb County District Attorney) Vic Reynolds a long time," said defense attorney Ray Giudice. "He's a quality man and great lawyer. My belief is he would have not sought that count of malice murder in front of a grand jury unless he and his staff believe they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."

The malice murder charge is one of three murder charges against Harris, with the other two being felony murder charges based on the acts of child cruelty.

"That gives the district attorney's office enormous leverage in negotiations and the ability to say to the defense council, 'you want to come up and plead to one of the non-death-penalty murder charges, or are you ready for trial?'"

Giudice said that based on how trial calendars are structured, and the amount of research the defense council for Harris will have to conduct, Harris' trial likely would not start until late next winter or early in the spring.

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