The lead defense attorney in the Justin Ross Harris murder case will make his opening statement this morning, a day after the prosecutor delivered a blistering two-hour attack in which he said he will prove Harris intentionally left his son in a hot SUV to die.
Harris is charged with murder in the hot-car death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in June 2014. The defense has said all along that Cooper’s death was a tragic accident.
Here are three key points made by lead prosecutor Chuck Boring on Monday:
1. Harris led a double life
Harris deceived friends and family who saw him as a doting father and loving husband, Boring said. In fact, he said, the former Home Depot web developer was more interested in pursuing a life of reckless abandon, spending his time having sex with prostitutes and sending illicit texts to underage girls.
“I love my son and all but we both need escapes,” Harris wrote on Whisper, an anonymous messaging service, moments before leaving Cooper inside his SUV on what was the hottest day of 2014 up to that point. Boring repeated the message six times during his opening statement.
“Those were the words of a killer,” Boring told the six-man, six-woman jury. “The words that reveal the motive for this man who killed his child in the most horrific, torturous, unimaginable way.”
2. Harris’ behavior was unnatural
Boring said Harris’ behaved unnaturally after he screeched to a halt at the Akers Mill Square shopping center, the point where Harris claimed he first realized Cooper was in the car. Harris walked away from his car in the shopping center parking lot when witnesses tried to administer CPR to Cooper. He also flipped off a police officer who asked for his ID and told another officer, “Shut the (expletive) up. My son just died.”
When put in the back of a squad car, Harris acted “calm, cool and collected” and shed no tears, Boring said. Also, the prosecutor added, his voice full of disdain, “He complains it’s hot in the back of the car.”
3. Harris should have noticed Cooper
Boring said Harris had too short a drive from the Chick-fil-A to the intersection where he was supposed to turn and take Cooper to daycare to forget his son was in the car. The prosecutor also said this was a “normal” day for Harris because 19 of the past 25 days he’d dropped Cooper off at daycare before going to work.
When he got to his office parking lot, Harris chose to back into his parking space, Boring noted. Harris’ 2011 Hyudai Tucson had no back-up camera, Boring said. The implication: he would almost certainly have looked over his shoulder as he backed the SUV into its space and would have seen Cooper sitting in his rear-facing car seat right behind him.
Also, Boring said, when Harris got in his car that day at 4:15 p.m. to go meet friends to see a movie, he had to have smelled a stench inside the car.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you’re going to hear from numerous law enforcement officers, someone from the medical examiner’s office,” Boring said. “They’re going to tell you that even hours after the body was taken away, they could smell it. … There was no doubt there was a stench coming from that car.”
The defense is set to deliver its opening statements today.
Follow the latest developments in the case on Twitter at @AJCBreakdown and at AJC.com. 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.