DA won't seek death penalty for Justin Ross Harris - CBS46 News

DA won't seek death penalty for Justin Ross Harris

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Justin Ross Harris doesn't know if a jury will find him guilty or not. He does know a jury won't sentence him to die.

Vic Reynolds, the Cobb County District Attorney, will not seek the death penalty against Harris.

Reynolds released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"After reviewing Georgia's death penalty statute and considering other factors, the State will not seek the death penalty in this case at this time. I cannot and will not elaborate at this juncture of the case.

Furthermore, due to a scheduling conflict with the defense, the State has consented to their request to postpone the arraignment until 9 a.m. on Oct. 17 before Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary E. Staley."

Harris is accused of leaving the couple's two-year-old, Cooper, to die inside a brutally hot car.

On Sept. 4, a Cobb County Grand Jury returned an indictment for Harris on eight counts related to the death of Cooper.

Harris is charged with murder, malice murder and child cruelty in the death of his son.

Harris told investigators he forgot Cooper was in his car when he went to work on June 18. Cooper was found more than seven hours later dead in the car.

An autopsy showed that Cooper had died from the extreme heat. Cooper's body was in a state of rigor mortis when he was removed from the car, according to detectives.

Lawrence Zimmerman, the lawyer for Harris's wife Leanna, said she believes her husband is innocent.

"This was just a tragic accident," Zimmerman said. "She's thrilled with the district attorney's decision not to seek the death penalty. This affirms what we've been saying all along. When the truth comes out, justice will prevail for Ross," Zimmerman said.

Investigators are trying to build a strong case against Justin Ross Harris. They said he researched online how long a child could last inside a hot car and that he exchanged sexually explicit text messages with women as Cooper suffered for hours.

According to Page Pate, a criminal defense expert, the evidence may not be as iron-clad as it seems.

"If the DA really had the evidence this was a malice murder, that Harris intended to kill his son, that's usually a death penalty case," Pate said. "It may be an issue that it's an entirely circumstantial case and they don't have the smoking gun they hinted at in probable cause."

Pate said a jury may be less likely to convict in a capital punishment case.

"Juries are always reluctant to return a death penalty verdict if the evidence isn't 100 percent rock solid," Pate said.

Justin Ross Harris is due back in court for an arraignment on Oct. 17.

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