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Justin Ross Harris, who was convicted in 2016 of murdering his toddler son by leaving him in a hot car, will take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia next week.

Justin Ross Harris, the man convicted in 2016 of murdering his toddler by deliberately leaving him in a hot car two years earlier, will take his case next week to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Currently serving a life sentence in Macon State Prison, Harris and his attorneys are expected to argue that prosecutors wrongfully used evidence of Harris’ multiple extramarital affairs to claim he deliberately killed his son Cooper Harris to escape a failed marriage.

Instead, the defense contends, the 22-month-old died as a result of a tragic accident when his father accidentally left him in the back of his car for hours in the middle of June.

Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark heard similar arguments from the defense in December 2020 when Harris sought a new trial. Clark maintained the evidence was “sufficient to sustain Harris’ convictions beyond a reasonable doubt,” and denied the request in May 2021.

Clark also presided over the original 2016 trial, where Harris’ infidelities and indiscretions were among the most salacious parts of proceedings that attracted national attention. Searches of Harris’ text messages and social media communications revealed he was swapping explicit messages and photos with a 17-year-old girl while married to his then-wife, Leanna Cooper.

In the appeal filed with the Supreme Court, attorney Mitch Durham conceded an “enormous amount of sexual misconduct was found” in the messages, but “the State cherry picked” a few examples to tarnish Harris’ character.

Harris was also convicted of several sex offenses along with his murder charges for his relationship with a minor. Durham, however, says trying the charges simultaneously planted the notion in jurors’ heads that the sex crimes and murder charges were connected.

As Durham put it, “The evidence does not support the State’s allegations that (Harris’) sexual messages, texts, conversations, and acts are intertwined with the death of Cooper.”

The prosecution, meanwhile, continues to argue Harris’ “dalliances” were integral to establishing a motive for intentionally killing his son.

“In this case,” the prosecution’s brief reads in part, “evidence of Harris’ motive made it more probable that he murdered his son and less probable that it was an accident.”

Another point of the appeal will address the role of Dr. David Diamond, a neuroscientist who was expected to testify for the defense as an expert on what causes parents to leave their children in hot cars. The defense scrapped the plan at the last minute after the court compelled him to turn over notes he took in private, pre-trial meetings with Harris.

Harris will also challenge the introduction of a 3D rendering of his car into court, and limitations placed on cross-examination of two Cobb County Police Department detectives.

Arguments for the case will kick off at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The Cobb County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the 2016 trial, will be joined by the office of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.


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