Harris defense: State failed to disprove hot car death was accident

Everything Justin Ross Harris did and said was suspicious on the day his 22-month-old son died after being left strapped in his car seat for seven hours, lead defense lawyer Maddox Kilgore said Monday in his closing argument.

“He screamed too loud at the scene. He didn’t cry in front of us,” Kilgore said.

“The Cobb police made a decision right there on the scene,” he said. “There was never, ever a consideration that this was an accident.”

Following law enforcement’s lead, prosecutors have maintained a singular focus throughout the trial.

“This entire trial has been about count one. Malice,” Kilgore said. “That’s been the state’s theory from the beginning. He meant to do it. He intended to do it.”

That theory has numerous holes, he argued. There’s no evidence Harris had any hatred for his son, Cooper.

Testimony from the defendant’s former wife Leanna Taylor, should be evidence enough to acquit, as she had no reason to say anything positive about Harris, Kilgore said.

“Ross ruined that woman’s life,” he said. “He humiliated her in front of the world. He took her son away.”

Kilgore, seeking to prevent the juror from reaching a so-called compromise, convicting Harris on felony murder, tied to criminal negligence, while acquitting him on the malice charge.

“Murder is murder is murder, whether he’s convicted of count 1, 2 or 3,” Kilgore said. “They’re all the same in Georgia. You need to know that when you’re considering his fate. Each count is just a different theory of murder.”

None of which are applicable, he said.

“Responsible is not the same thing as criminal,” Kilgore told jurors. “The state has not disproven that this was an accident.”

He urged them to consider the evidence, that Harris was planning a family cruise and looking for a home in a good school district — behavior inconsistent with someone who planned to kill his child.

The state’s motive, that Harris wanted to live a child-free life, is also hard to swallow, Kilgore said.

“Ross was already doing whatever he wanted to do,” he said.

Return for updates.

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