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Justin Ross Harris Hot Car Death Changes Venues, Location and Jurors Yet to be Determined

On June 18, 2014, Justin Ross Harris strapped his 22 month-old son, Cooper Harris, into his car seat and drove to work. On a normal day, Cooper would have been dropped off at daycare on the way to Justin’s work; but a tragedy occurred that day instead.

After a stop at Chick Fil-A, Justin Harris drove directly to his job at Home Depot Corporate and parked at 9:25 am, leaving Cooper strapped into his car seat in the back of his vehicle. Cooper was left in the sweltering Georgia heat for over eight hours and was discovered by his father at 4 pm when he parked at a local theater.

When authorities arrived at the scene, Justin Harris was screaming, panicking and uncooperative. At first, the case was publicized as an accident. However as time went by, the prosecution began to discover facts that have been widely interpreted as more insidious motives behind the toddler’s death. In September of 2015, a grand jury served Justin Harris with an eight-count indictment for malice murder, felony murder, and first-degree cruelty to children.

Details of the incident revealed that Justin Harris went to his car to put away a light bulb he had purchased on his lunch break at about 12:45 in the afternoon and failed to notice that his son was still in the back seat. Also, prosecutors revealed that Justin Harris had participated in some unusual online behavior including inappropriately interacting with minors, and performing an online search for “how to survive jail.”

The Justin Ross Harris case has been highly publicized by the media from day one. Details of the case have been under close scrutiny of the public eye, making it extremely difficult to secure an unbiased jury. As a result of this bias, presiding Judge Mary Staley recently called for a change of venue for the case, and said:

"[Harris] has carried the burden to make a substantive showing of a likelihood that prejudice exists because of extensive publicity, so it would not be just to try the case in Cobb County."

Though a change of venue will cost taxpayers a significant sum of money and delay the outcome of the case by months, it seems the only fair solution. Prosecution and defense had been working for months to find unbiased jurors but were unsuccessful due to the amount of publicity the case received.

Studies have shown that when someone leaves a child in the car, 90% of people assume there is some bad behavior associated with the negligence such as drugs, addiction, or other nefarious motives when in reality, it’s only about 10%. In widely publicized cases such as Justin Harris’s, selecting the right defense team that will stand up to the prosecution as well as a judgmental public is imperative.

Though the location and jurors for the Justin Ross Harris case are yet to be determined, the change of venue should lead to the fair trial that he is entitled.

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