Justin Ross Harris trial: A full pool of jurors, at last

BRUNSWICK — The court and the lawyers in the Ross Harris murder case accomplished something in eight days here in Brunswick that they were unable to pull off after three weeks in Cobb County: find 45 people who weren’t already convinced of Harris’s guilt, who were willing to weigh the evidence at trial and decide the case on its merits.

Having filled out the final jury pool late Wednesday, the court will entertain motions in the case today and then is expected to recess until Oct. 3. On that Monday, it will be time to begin the trial-in-chief and answer the question: Did Harris deliberately leave his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in a hot SUV to die?

Here are five things to know about the Harris case today.

1. Jury pool is all set

A total of 45 jurors have been qualified for the jury pool after extensive questioning by the judge and the attorneys for the defense and prosecution. It is from this pool that the lawyers will make their peremptory strikes — in which they can dismiss any juror for any reason, save for race — and whittle the pool down to the final 12 jurors and up to four alternates.

2. ‘I’ve already convicted him’

The court was bringing in panels of 12 prospective jurors at a time for questioning. The panel examined late Wednesday featured a number of people who said they had already made up their minds about the case. “To be honest with you, I’ve already convicted him,” Juror #31 said of Harris. “I’m just a very opinionated person,” said Juror #27. “I think he’s guilty.” Of the people in that panel, seven were qualified for the final pool.

3. Two weeks on, one week off

After today’s motion hearings, the court is likely to go on vacation. The trial has long been scheduled to be in recess all next week, and Judge Mary Staley Clark had hoped to finish jury selection before the trial took a break. She managed to beat that deadline by two days.

4. ‘Go by the evidence’

Among the jurors qualified on Wednesday were the wife of a lawyer whose mantra was “go by the evidence”; a former school bus driver whose friend’s dog died because it was left in a hot car; and a retired carpenter who takes part in Civil War reenactments. He said he will make up his own mind on the case, even though his wife believes Harris to be guilty.

5. Next in court

After its week off, the proceeding will reconvene Oct. 3. First the lawyers will choose the final 12 jurors, plus alternates. Then they’ll launch into their opening statements, and the trial-in-chief will be on.

Follow: AJC reporters Christian Boone (@reporterJCB) and Bill Rankin (@ajccourts) will be in Brunswick for the duration of the trial.

Harris is the subject of the second season of the AJC’s podcast series “Breakdown,” which will follow the trial’s developments. Follow live updates on Twitter at @AJCBreakdown.

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