Jurors in the Ross Harris hot-car murder trial on Tuesday watched surveillance video that showed Harris leaving his son in his SUV, returning to his car at lunchtime and then driving away from work that afternoon.
The viewing must have been a sobering moment for jurors because they know 22-month-old Cooper Harris was inside his father’s car that day and died after being left there for seven hours. Prosecutors contend Harris deliberately left his son in his hot car to die. Harris’ attorneys say it was a gut-wrenching accident.
The videos were introduced through Greg Sanders, a security officer for Home Depot, where Harris worked as a web developer.
One snippet showed Harris driving into his office parking lot the morning of June 18, 2014. He passes an open space, backs up and then drives in and parks at 9:25 a.m. Harris had just returned from a nearby Chick-fil-A where he and Cooper ate breakfast.
The video shows that Harris sat in his car for 33 seconds before exiting the vehicle and then walking across the parking lot and entering his Home Depot office.
About three hours later, Harris can be seen being driven back to his car. He is returning from lunch at Publix with co-workers Alex Hall and Winston Milling. They also stopped at a Home Depot store on the way back so Harris could buy some light bulbs.
The surveillance video shows Hall dropping off Harris in front of his SUV. Harris then walks up, opens his door and tosses the light bulbs inside.
Questioned by defense attorney Carlos Rodriguez, Sanders acknowledged that Harris never bent down far enough to get inside his SUV and that he didn’t stick his head inside.
“He didn’t get in, he didn’t sit down in the car,” Rodriguez began.
“He didn’t get into the car,” Sanders agreed.
Harris’ head never goes below the roof line, Rodriguez added.
Sanders agreed. “The head is out,” he said.
The point is important because if the video showed Harris leaning inside his car and looking inside, he would have had to know Cooper was inside.
Lead prosecutor Chuck Boring did not appear to be enjoying Sanders’ testimony.
When Rodriguez continued to ask the security officer to describe what he saw on the video, Boring objected. Someone who’s previously reviewed the video would be better-suited to talk about it, Boring said.
Rodriguez disagreed. Because Sanders had turned over to police the actual video, he should be allowed to testify about what’s on it, the lawyer said.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark overruled Boring’s objection. She allowed Rodriguez to continue his questioning.
Later, Boring got Sanders to acknowledge that during the lunchtime visit Harris was “inside the frame” of the car because he was between the open door and the inside of the car.
But Rodriguez had a follow-up. “He’s not all the way in there,” Rodriguez said, reminding Sanders of his previous testimony.
“That’s correct,” Sanders said. “It looks like his arm is in the vehicle.”
The surveillance video also showed Harris leaving work that afternoon at about 4:15. He’d told police he was going to meet friends for a five o’clock movie at a nearby cinema.
Harris can be seen walking across the parking lot and entering his SUV at 4:16 p.m. Just three seconds later, he drove away.