Ross Harris trial: 2 questions arise in jury deliberations


Jury deliberations resumed today in the Justin Ross Harris hot car murder trial, but the jury broke for lunch without posing any questions to the court.

This is Day 4 of deliberations by the six-man, six-woman jury, whose decision could put Harris behind bars for the rest of his life. He is accused of murder for leaving his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in a hot SUV to die in June 2014.

» Read the AJC’s full trial coverage

The jurors last week weighed evidence in the murder case for 2½ days and then broke for a three-day weekend. They reassembled today at the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick. The jury didn't ask to review any evidence or seek explanations of the law today but may still be chewing on issues that arose last week. Here are two questions they came up with then that seemed to be important to their discussions:

1. What do the videos show?

Early on in deliberations, the jury asked to review three videos from the day Cooper died: Harris’ interview with lead detective Phil Stoddard, his reunion with now ex-wife Leanna Taylor in a police interrogation room, and his return to his SUV at lunchtime, roughly three hours after leaving his son in the Hyundai Tucson.

“The third video, because it was so short, everyone was paying attention to see what it was,” Atlanta criminal defense attorney Esther Panitch said. “And it’s a very difficult video to analyze because it was taken from such a distance away from where Ross was in his car. So it’s interesting to see. It makes sense the jurors wanted to see what happened on that day.”

2. What does “wanton” mean?

Jurors asked the court to define “wanton,” which appears in the definition of criminal negligence — “an act or failure to act which demonstrates a willful, wanton, or reckless disregard for the safety of others who might reasonably be expected to be injured thereby,” according to Georgia law.

That means Harris knew his son could be hurt as a result of his actions, in this case, his serial sexting with online strangers. The judge declined to provide a definition.

You follow trial developments at AJC.com and on Twitter at @AJCBreakdown. AJC reporters Christian Boone (@reporterJCB) and Bill Rankin (@ajccourts) will be in Brunswick for the duration of the trial.

Harris is also the subject of the second season of the AJC’s podcast series “Breakdown,” which will follow the trial’s developments.


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