Justin Ross Harris sentenced to life in prison without parole


Justin Ross Harris, convicted three weeks ago of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son inside a hot car to die, was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

An additional 32 years — the maximum penalty allowed — was tagged on to the sentence by Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark, following the recommendation of prosecutors.

“The state’s recommendation is the very least that can be considered just,” Staley Clark said.

“There is no justification,” lead prosecutor Chuck Boring said Monday in requesting the toughest punishment possible. “This is basically the most aggravated killing of another individual, especially a young child … that there’s only one sentence that reflects the evil nature of what he did.”

» Why did the jury convict Justin Ross Harris on all counts?

» Why the Justin Ross Harris case is far from over

Harris, now 36, left his toddler son Cooper strapped into a car seat in the back of his sweltering SUV for seven hours on June 18, 2014. He was supposed to take Cooper to day care that morning, but instead, just minutes after the father-son pair had breakfast at Chick-fil-A, the former Home Depot web developer drove straight to work.

Harris, in an orange jumpsuit, his feet shackled, said nothing when given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf prior to sentencing on Monday. His defense team — focused on the appeal they say they will file within the next 30 days, as required by law — was also mum.

“They’re making it trial strategy decision not to provide any mitigating evidence at this time,” lead prosecutor Chuck Boring said.

Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore didn’t elaborate in court Monday.

“There were breakdowns in this process that occurred,” Kilgore said following Harris’ conviction. “There were breakdowns in the investigation. There were breakdowns in the pre-trial phase, the motions phase. And there were breakdowns in the trial. It’s our belief those breakdowns affected the verdict.”

» Photos: Key moments in the Justin Ross Harris case

» Photos: Harris family photos from the trial

Harris maintained his innocence from the beginning. “Demeanor and dirt,” as Kilgore characterized the prosecution’s strategy during the trial, ultimately proved too damning to ignore for the Glynn County jury. The trial was moved from Cobb after Staley Clark determined than an unbiased panel could not be found in Harris’ home county.

In a post-verdict meeting with the prosecution, jurors revealed that, from the start, there was near-unanimity Harris was guilty of murder.

Harris will be evaluated at Jackson State Prison to determine where he will serve out his sentence.

A more complete story will appear soon on MyAJC.com.




Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Man sought in DeKalb home invasions arrested
BREAKING: Man sought in DeKalb home invasions arrested

The man sought in connection with several home invasions in DeKalb County has been arrested, police said Sunday. Corey Griffin, 48, was located in Atlanta and taken into custody, Clarkston police Sgt. Jasond Elliott said. Griffin will be booked into the DeKalb County jail, according to Elliott. MORE: DNA helps police ID man wanted in multiple...
Memphis funeral home hit by lightning, burns down moments before service
Memphis funeral home hit by lightning, burns down moments before service

A Tennessee funeral home burst into flames after it was hit by lightning, moments before a service Saturday morning. >> Read more trending news Storms blew through Memphis on Saturday, bringing strong winds and dangerous lightning. Around 8:30 a.m., lightning hit the Forest Hill Funeral Home. Relatives and friends had gathered for the ...
Political ad by Texas war hero running for Congress goes viral
Political ad by Texas war hero running for Congress goes viral

A decorated Air Force veteran is running for Congress, and the Texas Democrat released a political video that went viral since its release Thursday, USA Today reported. >> Read more trending news  Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar, who won a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in Afghanistan, is running for...
Texas veteran, 79, evicted for failing to pay taxes on home
Texas veteran, 79, evicted for failing to pay taxes on home

A veteran who has lived in a Texas home for decades is homeless after he was unable to pay back taxes and the house was sold at public auction, WFAA reported. >> Read more trending news  Billie McGruder turns 80 next month. He has lived in the house his parents bought in the 1930s for decades, but he was evicted Friday, the television...
Naked man claiming he 'may be Jesus' arrested after trying to start fire 
Naked man claiming he 'may be Jesus' arrested after trying to start fire 

An Indiana man was arrested after he was found naked in the backyard of a Kentucky home after allegedly attempting to start a fire, claiming he “may be Jesus,” Kentucky New Era reported. >> Read more trending news Austin Michael Johnson, 31, was arrested June 18 by Magoffin County Sheriff’s deputies in Johnson Fork, where...
More Stories