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Georgia Father Accused in Tot’s SUV Death Released from Prison

Justin Ross Harris, the man accused of killing his 1-year-old son, Cooper, after leaving him inside a hot SUV, was released from prison Sunday after serving eight years in prison. According to 11 Alive News, Harris’ release happened “just two days before the 10-year mark of Cooper’s death.”

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice David E. Nahmias reversed Harris’ convictions of malice murder and first-degree child cruelty in 2022, following a hearing in which defense lawyers laid out reasons why they deemed the convictions unfair.

Harris was convicted in 2016 after he left Cooper strapped in his car seat in the Home Depot headquarters parking lot in Cobb County.

Harris’ convictions also included sexual exploitation of a child, which happened after he sent sexually charged messages to a teen girl via a dating site in 2016. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the sexual exploitation charges, which means despite the conviction reversal, he remained in prison for a few more years.

Defense lawyers argued that “errors related to its evidentiary decisions” were made during Harris’ 2016 trial. According to the case overview, Harris’ lawyers argued that only three defense witnesses were called to the stand, which included two detectives and a computer expert.

Further, they argued that the convictions of child cruelty and murder were baseless, without sufficient evidence.

Harris’ lawyers said “prejudicial testimony” made it an “absolute impossibility” for him to receive a fair trial. The defense team argued that showing evidence of affairs and sexual addiction tainted the jury’s view of Harris and had nothing to do with Cooper’s death.

Justin Ross Harris listens to jury selection during his trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Harris charged with murder after his toddler son died two years ago while left in the back of a hot SUV. (Stephen B. Morton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Harris, who worked at the Vinings Home Depot headquarters as a web designer, left Cooper inside a Hyundai Tucson in the parking lot of the headquarters office on June 18, 2014, and walked into work.

Later that afternoon, Harris pulled his SUV over into the Akers Mill Square shopping center on Cobb Parkway and began screaming as he pulled Cooper from the vehicle.

According to witnesses, Harris attempted CPR on the toddler, although it was apparent Cooper was already deceased. A bystander also attempted CPR but later testified he could tell Cooper was dead.

“Justin was witnessed yelling, ‘Oh my god what have I done,’” the warrant read. “He then began doing CPR on the child. EMS responded to the scene. It was obvious that the child was deceased.”

According to Harris, he forgot to drop his son off at daycare and didn’t notice Cooper inside the vehicle until he drove away from work at around 4:15 p.m. Harris has maintained that it was a terrible accident.

FILE – In this Oct. 31, 2016, file photo, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore holds a photo of Cooper Harris during a murder trial for his father Justin Ross Harris who is accused of intentionally killing him in June 2014 by leaving him in the car in suburban Atlanta, in Brunswick, Ga. News outlets report a Cobb County judge will hear Justin Ross Harris’ appeal in December, 2020, nearly four years after he was convicted for murder. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool, File)

During the 2016 trial, prosecutors focused on Harris’s sexual misconduct with underage girls and how he sent text messages to someone while Cooper remained trapped inside the vehicle.

Jurors heard testimony from eight women who had contact with Harris. Some had sex with him, while others testified that they exchanged sexually explicit texts and naked photos with him.

Harris didn’t contest his convictions on sexual exploitation of a child, which happened after he sent sexually charged messages to a teen girl via a dating site in 2016.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on those charges, which means despite the conviction reversal, he will remain in prison for now.

Check back for updates.

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