A timeline of the Justin Ross Harris case


June 18, 2014: Justin Ross Harris leaves his 22-month son Cooper in the back seat of his SUV as he goes to his job at the Home Depot corporate office on Cumberland Boulevard. Police say that Cooper, who was locked inside the car at about 9:30, probably died before noon. About 4:15 p.m., by his account, Harris drives two miles before noticing his son in the back seat. He pulls off in a shopping center parking lot and removes Cooper’s body. Witnesses at the scene call paramedics and police. At 10 p.m., Harris is arrested and charged with murder. See a closer look at the day’s timeline here. 

June 28, 2014: Cooper’s funeral is held in Tuscaloosa, Ala. By phone from jail, Harris thanks supporters for standing behind him. His wife, Leanna Harris, also speaks at the service. “[Cooper’s] in the most peaceful, wonderful place there is,” Leanna tells mourners.

» Listen to Breakdown Season 2 on the Justin Ross Harris case here.

June 29, 2014: Search warrants released to the public reveal that both Ross and Leanna Harris had recently researched hot car deaths.

July 3, 2014: Cobb Superior Court Judge Frank Cox rules there is probable cause to charge Harris with his son’s murder and denies bail. Harris remains in jail. During the hearing, prosecutors disclose that Harris was sexting with at least six women on the day that Cooper died.

July 10, 2014: Home Depot confirms that it has terminated Justin Ross Harris. Also on this day, it’s reported that Leanna Harris has retained her own legal counsel; and a toxicology report on Cooper shows negative results for drugs or other chemicals.

Aug. 8, 2014: Leanna Harris states in a crime victim report that she believes that Ross is innocent and calls him “a wonderful father.”

Sept. 4, 2014: Justin Ross Harris is indicted for malice murder, two counts of felony murder, cruelty to children in the first and second degree, criminal attempt to commit a felony and dissemination of harmful materials to minors.

Sept. 24, 2014: Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds announces that prosecutors will not pursue the death penalty.

Oct. 13, 2014: Harris pleads not guilty to all eight charges.

Sept. 11, 2015: Cobb County releases results from Cooper’s autopsy. Hyperthermia is listed as the toddler’s cause of death.

Sept. 14, 2015: A series of pretrial hearings begin to determine what evidence is admissible. Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley denies a motion to keep the pre-trial hearings closed from the public.

Sept. 15, 2015: Judge Staley decides that conversations that Harris had with Cobb County police on June 18, 2014, after he had requested an attorney are admissible. In those conversations, Cobb police describe Harris as unemotional and cordial, and well-acquainted with the charges against him.

Oct. 12, 2015: Judge Staley decides that online chats that Harris had with women are admissible. Prosecutors claim that in those chats, Harris told women that he would leave his wife if not for their son. In one of those chats, held on the morning that Cooper was last alive, Harris posted, “I love my son and all, but we both need escapes.” The police say this is a motive to kill.

Dec. 14, 2015: Defense lawyers for Harris accuse the Cobb police of illegally taking his cell phone without a warrant. The defense calls the police investigation a “fishing expedition” and moves to dismiss any evidence taken from the phone. The defense also claims that when investigators sought a warrant for Harris, they portrayed Harris as unemotional, when witnesses instead claimed he was “hysterical.”

Dec. 15, 2015: Cobb police testify that Harris’ initial statements contradicted the evidence, which gave them probable cause to seek a warrant.

Jan. 29, 2016: Judge Staley denies the defense motions, effectively preserving key evidence collected by police against Harris before he was a suspect, during his interrogation and after his arrest.

Feb. 11, 2016: Leanna Harris files for divorce from Justin.

Feb. 22, 2016: Defense lawyers say evidence of Justin’s extramarital dalliances is irrelevant and should be excluded.

March 4, 2016: Eight new charges are filed against Harris, including two counts of sexual exploitation of children and six of disseminating harmful material to a minor.

March 30, 2016: Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds says that Leanna Harris (now going by Leanna Taylor) may be called as a witness.

April 11, 2016: Jury selection begins for 239 who were summoned. Over the next two weeks, an overwhelming majority of prospective jurors say they believe Harris is guilty. Several express statements of disgust towards him, including that he "rot in hell" and "needs to go down."

April 29, 2016: With 41 prospective jurors qualified, Harris' defense files a motion for a change of venue.

May 2, 2016: Judge Staley grants a chance of venue, saying that she had witnessed firsthand the "pervasive bias" against Harris and that trying the case in Cobb County "would not be just."

June 16, 2016: It is announced that the trial will resume in Brunswick on Sept. 12.

July 15, 2016: Cobb County authorizes up to $200,000 on relocation costs for the trial.

August, 2016: For several weeks, a classified ad ran in The Brunswick News recommending readers to listen to the AJC's "Breakdown" podcast. (The AJC did not place the ad.) Concerned that the ad was trying to sway the trial, the Cobb DA's office subpoenaed the newspaper to disclose who bought the ad. The paper complied and it was determined that the ad buyer was not a potential juror nor involved in the case.

Aug. 19, 2016: Judge Mary Staley Clark rules that Dr. David Diamond, a psychologist who will be an expert witness for the defense, may not give his opinion that he thinks Harris did not act intentionally when leaving Cooper in the SUV. Staley Clark also rules that the SUV may be shown to jurors as evidence, and that a 3D animation of the crime scene that the prosecutors created may also be shown to jurors.

Sept. 12, 2016: The trial restarts in Brunswick with a new round of jury selection.

Oct. 3, 2016: A jury of 6 men and 6 women is selected. In a late pretrial motion, Staley Clark allows the testimony of a prostitute witness. The prosecution delivers its opening statement.

Oct. 4, 2016: Ross Harris gets emotional as the defense delivers its opening statement. The jury hears testimony from the officers on the scene and witnesses who tried to help Cooper by performing CPR. The jury is also shown a video of Harris' arrest and time spent in the patrol car.


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