Justin Ross Harris has been sent to a South Georgia prison to begin serving a life-without-parole sentence for the murder of his 22-month-old son.
Harris, 36, is now being housed at Valdosta State Prison, according to the state Department of Corrections’ website.
The prison, located in Lowndes County, has 10 general population units with 500 beds and six mental health units with 264 beds. The detention center provides work details for orderlies, grounds maintenance, horticulture, laundry, food service, trash, barbers and aides, its website says.
In November, Harris was found guilty of intentionally leaving his son strapped into his car seat in Harris’ sweltering SUV for seven hours on June 18, 2014. On Dec. 5, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced Harris to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 32 years.
Staley Clark followed the recommendation of lead prosecutor Chuck Boring to sentence Harris to the maximum time possible. The judge noted that jurors “found the defendant guilty of what factually was a horrendous, horrific experience for this 22-month-old child, who had been placed in the trust of his father in violation and dereliction of duty to that child, if not love of that child.”
The former Home Depot web developer “callously walked away and left that child in a hot car in June in Georgia … to swelter and die,” Staley Clark said.
Harris’ lawyers have insisted their client was wrongly convicted. Cooper’s death, they said, was the result of a terrible accident, not an intentional act. They have vowed to appeal the verdict, first by filing a motion for a new trial.
The Harris case is the subject of the second season of the AJC’s podcast series “Breakdown, ” which has followed the trial’s developments. You can check out the podcast at ajcbreakdown.com or at the iTunes’ podcast store.