Within hours of his son’s death, Justin Ross Harris appeared relaxed and unemotional as he chatted with Cobb County police — up until the time he was charged with felony murder and cruelty to children, according to testimony and video taken of his interview with investigators.
At that point, Harris told them he had “no malicious intent,” testified Det. Phil Stoddard Tuesday during Day 2 of motions hearings, adding he was well-acquainted with the charges against him and what they meant.
“We found that unusual,” Stoddard testified.
The manner in which Cobb County police dealt with Harris before and after his arrest figured prominently in defense motions to strike some of his statement from the record. Harris was handcuffed and detained but wasn’t read his Miranda rights until after he was taken to the police station, attorney Maddox Kilgore said.
“Ross Harris was in custody from the time he was in that police car,” Kilgore said.
After a 46-minute interview with police, at which time he was informed he would be charged, Harris stopped talking and requested an attorney. Yet conversations continued later — communication that should not have happened under the law, Kilgore said.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley denied the motions, saying Harris was properly informed of his rights.
While his chats with investigators were cordial, one of the first officers to respond after Harris discovered his son, comatose, in the back of his SUV, testified the defendant was initially combative with police.
Detective Jacquelyn Piper said Harris refused when she instructed him to hang up his cell phone, then told a fellow officer who repeated the demand to “shut the (expletive) up!”
It’s unknown who Harris was talking with at the time, but, based on a request he made to Piper, it wasn’t his wife, Leanna.
Piper testified Harris asked her to call his wife because she was supposed to pick up their son from daycare.
Earlier Tuesday, the defense dropped a motion challenging Harris’ invocation of marital privilege regarding a conversation, recorded by investigators, with his spouse at the police station.
Hearings will resume Oct. 12, at which time a trial date is expected to be set.