As Justin Ross Harris, accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son inside a hot SUV to die in June 2014, prepares to return to the public eye for the first time in more than a year, Cobb County on Friday released the toddler’s autopsy.
There was little new information in the medical examiner’s report, which listed the cause of death as hyperthermia.
A re-creation of Cooper Harris’ death, conducted on a slightly warmer day, found the temperature reached 120 degrees inside his father’s SUV.
Ross Harris was indicted last September on charges including malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children. Prosecutors have portrayed him as a porn-obsessed, would-be playboy seeking a “child-free lifestyle.” They say he studied how long it would take his son to die inside a hot car.
Harris pleaded not guilty and has been held without bond ever since.
A series of pre-trial hearings are scheduled through Wednesday, including a defense motion to suppress evidence of a conversation between Harris and his wife soon after they learned he was being charged with his son’s death.
In it, Leanna Harris, according to Cobb police Detective Phil Stoddard, asked her husband, “Did you say too much?” Leanna Harris’ attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, said the remark was taken out of context.
Harris’ attorney has moved to close the pre-trial hearing to the media, arguing their presence could jeopardize his right to a fair trial.
Superior Court Judge Mary Staley refused a motion by the prosecution last winter to limit public access to documents and is unlikely to grant the defense’s request.
Defense lawyers have also moved to sever charges stemming from Harris’ alleged sexting with a girl younger than 18. arguing they are unrelated to the murder counts he faces and should be tried separately.
Last month, Harris was declared indigent, according to court documents. Taxpayers are now paying for his attorney, Maddox Kilgore, and two associates..
Attorney Esther Panitch, who is is not involved in the case. said she expects the defense to focus on inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case. An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published last year revealed that police appeared to overstate some of the evidence introduced during the probable cause hearing.
“They’re going to hammer away at the state’s credibility,” she said. “That’s going to be central to their case.”
A trial date has yet to be scheduled.
“We turned over a good deal of discovery evidence, ” said Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds. “Out of fairness, the defense needed a lot of time to digest it.”