‘Breakdown’ S02, Ep. 18: A momentous decision

Credit: AJC file

Credit: AJC file

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast drops a special episode Thursday for Season 2: “Death in a Hot Car; Mistake or Murder?”

This is the murder case against Justin Ross Harris, who left his 22-month-old son Cooper to die in a hot car on June 18, 2014.

Harris, a Home Depot web developer, took Cooper that morning to Little Apron Academy, the in-house daycare center at work. They stopped at a Chick-fil-A for breakfast. But when they leave, Harris doesn’t make the turn to the daycare. Instead, he drives to work, parks his car and walks in to the office. Within hours, Cooper is dead of hypothermia.

The intense publicity of the case went worldwide when it was disclosed at a preliminary hearing that Harris was sending sexually explicit texts to other women shortly before and after he left Cooper in the parking lot. It would be disclosed he was having extramarital affairs, sleeping with prostitutes and exchanging graphic texts with underage girls.

Harris would be indicted for Cooper’s murder and other crimes. Because of intense pretrial publicity, the trial was moved from Cobb County to Glynn County in coastal Georgia. The jury in Brunswick would convict Harris of Cooper’s murder and he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Before and during the trial, Harris’ defense lawyers said what Harris did was a tragic mistake because he loved his son. They also tried to keep evidence of Harris’ deviant sexual behavior from being presented to the jury, arguing it was unfairly prejudicial. Prosecutors contended it showed Harris’ motive — to life a child-free life so he pursue sexual relations.

Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark sided with prosecutors and let it all in. The jury heard days of testimony about the affairs, the graphic texts and the prostitutes.

This became a major thrust of Harris’ appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court in his bid for a new trial. The case was argued this past January and the court released its decision on June 22.

Breakdown’s Episode 18 of “Death in a Hot Car; Mistake or Murder?” covers the court’s momentous ruling and the aftermath.

You can download the Breakdown podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. You can also stream it on your computer from ajc.com.