The grueling jury selection process in the Ross Harris hot-car murder trial finally concluded Wednesday, with 16 prospective jurors being deemed eligible to serve.
“We have enough qualified jurors to make jury selection occur on Oct. 3,” Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark said in the early evening, after questioning was concluded of a second panel of 12 potential jurors.
The 16 new prospective jurors put the number in the final jury pool at 45 — when a minimum of 42 were needed. After the court takes the last week of September off, both the prosecution and the defense will exercise their strikes to arrive at 12 jurors plus four alternate jurors.
Among those declared eligible on Wednesday were: the wife of a lawyer whose mantra was “Go by the evidence;” a landscaper who said both her mother and brother “died in my arms” of terminal illnesses in recent years; a former school bus driver whose friend’s dog died because her husband left the dog in his hot car; and a retired carpenter who participates in Civil War reenactments and will make up his own mind on the case, even though his wife believes Harris to be guilty.
Noted & quoted: “It is not even in my realm of thinking that anyone would leave a living thing in his car,” said Juror #15, a retired banker and now a personal assistant to a corporate executive. “Even to leave a lizard in the car for a couple of hours in 99-degree weather like we have around here or y’all probably have up there, you know, that’s murder.” She was disqualified.
The finish line: After the jury is selected Oct. 3, opening statements and testimony are expected to begin.
Familial strife: When Juror #23 showed up for court the first time last Monday, his 27-year-old daughter was at the courthouse too. He was answering a jury summons for the Harris trial. She was facing charges of theft and forgery brought by her father. When asked if this would affect his ability to serve as a juror, Juror #23 said he didn’t think it would. He was found eligible to serve in the jury pool, even though he said his opinion has been that Harris intentionally left his son in his SUV to die. He also insisted that, if picked to serve, he could base his verdict on the evidence and the law.
This might be a first: Juror #20, who takes care of second homes on Sea Island, may have been the first prospective juror to say she had been under the impression that Harris did not intentionally kill his son Cooper. “When it initially happened,” she said, “I was under the impression it was an accident, that it was strictly an accident. Only days later … I may have glanced at something to where it wasn’t an accident. I don’t know why it’s not an accident.” Juror #20 was qualified to serve.