Justin Ross Harris Indicted on Murder Charges for Leaving His Son in Hot Car

Justin Ross Harris, the father who left his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in a hot car, where he died, has been indicted by a grand jury on multiple charges, including malice murder and felony murder. He could face life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors clearly believe that Harris planned his son's murder, though the charges could cover a jury that refuses to believe that. "Malice murder" means the murder could have been premeditated, or it occurred because of gross recklessness and depraved indifference for human life. The state of Georgia does not recognize a murder charge in degrees, but murder as murder -- whether intentional or not.


Ross Harris claimed he forgot to drop off his son, Cooper, at daycare while he went to work. He only realized his mistake when he left work seven hours later and found his son dead of heat stroke in the backseat of his car.

However, prosecutors argued that Harris knew what he was doing. Evidence included Internet searches about children dying in hot cars, websites devoted to the "child-free life," and that Harris was busy sexting multiple women at work while his child lay dying in the car.

Harris has also been indicted on charges of criminal attempt to commit a felony (sexual exploitation of a minor) and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors. This is related to his allegedly sending a picture of his penis to a 16-year-old girl and requesting a nude photo from her.

Additionally, if the death of Cooper happened in the course of a felony (such as sexting a minor), then this makes the charge of murder even more likely to stick. Malice murder can be during the course of gross negligence or recklessness -- such as while committing another crime. (It's unclear whether Harris realized the girl was underage, or even if that matters from a legal viewpoint.)

More from The Stir: Kids Who Die in Hot Cars: When It's Murder & When It's Not

If Harris is found guilty, he faces a minimum of life in prison. He could also face the death penalty.

While the prosecution clearly had enough evidence for an indictment, the murder charges do raise the bar significantly in terms of evidence needed to convict. It remains to be seen if Harris will be found guilty of the murder of his son.

Does any of this surprise you?


Image via Cobb County Sheriff's Office

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