This is a running account of the trial of Justin Ross Harris, charged with murder in the hot-car death of his 22-month-old son Cooper. Today is the third day of what is expected to be a six- to eight-week trial. The prosecution case-in-chief continues:
“Regardless this is certainly not grounds for a mistrial,” said Judge Mary Staley Clark.
“I’ve made a ruling, at this point I’m standing by it."
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
But Staley Clark said she’ll allow more discussion about the issue after the attorneys have had time to do some more research.
Kilgore is complaining that Officer Gallimore’s report is not being allowed in as evidence, arguing that it should be submitted as evidence.
The defense has the right to show the juror that Gallimore testified to things not referenced in the report.
He is calling for a mistrial.
Boring is re-examining.
“Are you in here lying to this jury?” Boring said. Kilgore objected to the question.
Boring told the judge that Kilgore is trying to call Gallimore a liar without saying it.
“I think we need to move on,” the judge said.
Court is ending for the day.
The trial will resume on Monday.
“I reluctantly ceased CPR on the child,” Gallimiore wrote in his report. “When securing the scene, Ross Harris, the father was still extremely upset and was not listening to officers when told to move back and provide information.”
He wrote that Harris became verbally aggressive to the officers.
Kilgore pointed out in this report that Gallimore never wrote in his report that Harris was acting inconsistently, which he testified about.
“You would agree that this was a rather significant case for you professionally because it involved the death of a child,” Kilgore said.
“Absolutely,” Gallimore replied.
Kilgore said Gallimore put in his report that he saw a white man talking on his cellphone and described Harris’ demeanor as “acting hysterical and extremely upset.”
Kilgore asked the officer to show where in the report where he made a suggestion that Harris was putting on some sort of performance. Gallimore said that’s why he used the word “acting” in describing how hysterical Harris was.
“He was not acting genuine,” Gallimore said.
Gallimore said he “never saw (Harris) cry once.”
He said Harris appeared calm in the back of the police patrol car.
Kilgore is now cross examining Gallimore, who showed the officer a copy of his incident report.
The prosecution objected to having that report into evidence and the judge sided with him.
“I didn’t want to leave the kid on the asphalt,” Gallimore said. “At this time I’m thinking I’m going to take my uniform off and drape it over the child.”
They ended up getting a sheet to cover Cooper’s body.
When Harris told the other officer to “Shut the (fuck) up,” Gallimore said he went over and told Harris to “Shut his (expletive) mouth.”
He then went back over to Cooper. The EMTs showed up and Gallimore starting setting up crime scene tape.
Was Harris anywhere close to the child when you pulled up? Boring asked, with Gallimore replying no.
Gallimore said he could tell the child was not moving when he first saw Cooper. He was not breathing.
The officer described Harris’ behavior: “For a brief second, he stood out to me because he was the only one moving. Everyone else was frozen.”
He also described Cooper’s condition.
“I immediately saw the kid was not breathing. I could see Cooper’s tongue sticking through his teeth,” he said. “The child was very pale.”
He started chest compressions. “I had no idea what was going on,” said Gallimore, who asked bystanders if Cooper was choking.
“His eyes were wide open and you could see a gray shadow toward the bottom of his eyes,” he said. “From my experience, that’s a sign a child was deceased for quite a while.”
Gallimore said he thought Harris was “acting” hysterical and wasn’t being genuine.
The prosecution calls Cobb police officer Brett Gallimore, the other officer first to the seen with Foglia, as its next witness.
Gallimore was there to conduct patrol in the area, where cars had been getting broken into.
He noticed an SUV still in the roadway and a crowd looking at the crowd. He also saw Harris walking behind the SUV on his cell phone.
Kilgore is cross examining Foglia.
Foglia and the other officer were on the scene for a “few moments” before Piper arrived. “It was a short time.”
“Isn’t it true that almost immediately, she asked for his idea?” Kilgore asked, to which Foglia said yes.
“This entire incident was a very short period of time,” Kilgore said.
“There was a lot going on in that time period,” Foglia responded.
Foglia said she didn’t know exactly where Harris was while they were trying to perform CPR.
“At some point in time, (Harris) walked about toward y’all to where y’all were with Cooper,” Kilgore said, to which she said yes.
Foglia told Harris to back away because they were still trying to perform CPR. “At that point, I didn’t know who he was,” she said.
Harris went back to pacing.
Foglia said she saw Harris pacing back and forth and had separated himself from Cooper.
Another officer, Piper who testified yesterday, went to get Harris’ information. He put a finger in Piper’s face, at which point Foglia walked over and told him to give Piper his information.
“At that point, Mr. Harris told me to ‘Shut the (expletive) up,’” Foglia said. “That’s when we detained him for officers' safety ,for everyone’s safety.”
Foglia described Harris' demeanor before he was put in handcuffs.
“He was pacing away from Cooper,” Foglia said. “I wasn’t even positive who Cooper was there with.”
“(Harris would) go from calm to shrieking to calm again. It was just very odd,” she said.
The prosecution called its next witness.
Cobb County police officer Lindsay Foglia, who now works in the department’s crimes against children division.
At the time of the Harris incident, she was a patrol officer in the Akers Mill area.
She had not been dispatched to the scene but that she and another officer were headed there for another reason in separate cars. The other officer slammed on his breaks, and she ran into his patrol car.
The other officer got to Cooper first at around 4:24 p.m. in the afternoon.
“It was extremely hot. … We were sweating that day,” Foglia said.
As soon as they saw Cooper, they jumped out of their cars and went to his side.
Foglia said she tried to open Cooper’s mouth to perform CPR but couldn’t because of rigor – stiffness of the body.
“He was a bluish-green color, his eyes were open,” Foglia said. His mouth was shut but Foglia said she could see part of his tongue or lips coming through his teeth. “He was stiff.”
Hamilton said he saw Eastland’s companion from the restaurant pull up to the scene in his car. That’s contrary to Eastland’s earlier testimony that the companion came out of the restaurant to the scene.
“If it were my child, I would probably react a bit different, I would shed tears, I wouldn’t’ have put him on hot asphalet on a hot day, but again every reacts differently,” Hamilton said when asked another question by the prosecution.
Defense attorney Kilgore stood to cross examine Hamilton.
“This whole thing is just a couple of minutes you testified about,” Kilgore said.
Two police cars showed up immediately like they were responding to something else, not the Harris incident, Hamilton said. One patrol car actually re-ended the other that had stopped at the scene.
“I kind of had a good view of everything that was going on at the same time,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton typically has lunch at the Subway in the shopping center where Harris pulled his SUV into.
As Hamilton was leaving the Subway, Harris’ SUV pulled in in front of his car. Harris got out, opened the back door and got Cooper out of the car seat, Hamilton testified.
“He was asking for help,” Hamilton said. Another bystander got out of a yellow van to help Harris, he said.
Hamilton stopped, got out of the car and walked toward the scene.
“He says what have I done, what have I done,” Hamilton said.
Harris never asked anybody to call 911, according to the witness.
“He was distraught. He was trying to make a phone call. But everybody grieves in a different way so it’s hard to say whether it’s believable,” Hamilton said.
Court is back in session.
The prosecution called Dale Hamilton, a mortgage loan officer at Regents Bank, as its next witness.
The judge brings Eastland back into the courtroom after she’s had a chance to listen to a recording of her July 10 phone conversation with a police detective.
Kilgore continues cross examining her.
“He put him on the ground and tried CPR,” Kilgore pointed out Eastland said on the recording.
Eastland also said she heard herself told the detective that Harris cried out for somebody to help.
She also told the detective that she didn’t see anything suspicious.
The court is taking a short break.
Kilgore is now cross examining Womack.
Womack heard the screams from her car when the door was open while she was finishing a text.
Kilgore asked if she heard the screeching of Harris coming off the road and parking, which she did not.
“You don’t really know how much time had transpired from the time the truck stopped to the time you saw someone doing CPR,” Kilgore said. “Whatever Ross may have done … you wouldn’t have seen any of that.”
Harris was already away from Cooper when she got to the scene.
“I saw the running of hands through the hair, along with the pacing and screaming,” Womack said of Harris. She also saw Harris with a cell phone but couldn’t hear what he was saying.
Boring played the 911 call Womack made from the scene.
On it, you can hear Womack say, “There’s a baby on the ground.”
She said, “It looks like the baby is having a seizure.” What she thought was a seizure, however, was a Good Samaritan performing CPR.
Womack said she didn’t know if Cooper was breathing.
Harris can be heard yelling in the background.
Did Harris’ behavior strike Womack at all?, Boring asked.
“I thought it was odd that a parent wouldn’t be on the ground with their child,” she said. “I imagine I would be on the ground doing everything I can to put life back into my child.”
Womack said she saw Harris yelling in the back of the patrol car. “I thought it was odd that the police would put someone whose baby just died in the back of a police car,” Womack said.
The prosecution called its next witness – Ashleigh Womack.
Womack, who is expecting a baby girl in five weeks, worked in the marketing department of a RaceTrac. Her colleagues were meeting at the Mexican restaurant in the shopping center.
“I thought it’s kind of early for people to have too many tequila shots to be screaming that way,” she said in reference to screaming she heard when she pulled up to the restaurant in her car.
She got out of the car and started walking toward the door when a passerby told her what had happened.
I said, “Oh my god, did anybody call 911? I ran up a slight hill and was trying to call 911 at the same time.”
When Womack arrived, she saw a man in a red shirt with dark hair screaming and pacing back and forth.
“What have I done, what have I done, I’ve killed my son,” Womack said Harris was saying.
Womack described Cooper as appearing gray or blue, “an unnatural color.” Cooper’s hair was also slicked back from his forehead like he was sweating, she said.
“He didn’t look good. … It’s not something you ever forget,” she said. “He didn’t look like he was alive.”
Eastland said she was at the restaurant with an acquaintance. “It was very casual, we all really decided to just get drinks and that was it”
They had margaritas. She had one margarita.
Kilgore asked if she remembered telling a detective that her companion did indeed approach the scene – a fact conflicting with her earlier testimony that he had stayed in the restaurant.
“That’s not what happened,” she said.
Kilgore also questioned whether Eastland thought her memory would have been better back in July of 2014 or now.
“It just depends on what you ask me, I can explain some things vividly … somethings I’m not quite sure,” Eastland said.
Eastland said she believed someone came up after Harris got Cooper out of the car and tried to help the baby.
She also recalled Cooper being alone at one point.
Kilgore said she told a detective that “nothing seemed suspicious.” Eastland responded: “It’s possible but I don’t think I said that.”
Eastland said Harris never went back to the child once he walked away.
She described Cooper as “grayish-bluish” with blue jean shorts. “He was very sweaty.”
Kilgore then stood up to cross examine her.
She talked to police at the scene and again on July 10 over the phone, although she said she doesn’t recall the phone call.
When speaking with a detective on the phone, Eastland said she heard the smell of burning rubber and saw the car swerve into the parking lot.
She told a detective during a phone interview that Harris had attempted CPR. However, Eastland said she did not recall the conversation.
“What he did was not CPR if he did it or thought he did,” she said.
Lead prosecutor Boring introduces the next witness -- Artiyka Eastland, a witness at the scene.
Eastland was having lunch with a friend on the patio of a restaurant in the shopping center. “It was a nice day to be on the patio,” she said.
She went to her car to charge her phone and then heard “burning rubber or a screech” as Harris’ car pulled in.
She said she saw Cooper on the ground where (Harris) had placed him.
“I saw the dad. I saw him kind of just put his hands on his hair and kept saying what had he done,” Eastland said. “He kind of walked off and that was it.”
She did not see Harris perform CPR. She also said Harris seemed very nervous.
The local sheriff gave an update on Hurricane Matthew. He said heavy rain on Thursday will make the “roads dirty, dangerous and wet.”
Schools have already been cancelled for Thursday and Friday.
The hurricane itself is expected to hit on Friday, he said.
“We’re here if ya’ll need us,” he said. “You all please be careful over the next few days.”
Assistant DA Evans asked Shumpert a few more questions after the defense was done, including emphasizing again that Shumpert smelled an odor from the SUV.
Shumpert said that he did. He also said that it isn’t necessarily typical to document smells in a crime scene reports because the smell of decomposition is expected.
“We go into all kinds of death scenes where there is decomposition,” Shumpert said.
Shumpert said detectives seized several items from Harris' house, including a Mac Book Pro, a Dell computer tower and a Google Chromecast.
When asked, Shumpert said that he did not see any evidence of child neglect in the house. "Nothing looked out of place," said Shumpert, who has two children of his own.
Shumpert visited the home a second time on June 30 to document if and how many light bulbs were out in the house. At least three were out. Harris had purchased light bulbs on the day of Cooper's death.
Court is back in session.
Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark said that court will not be held Thursday or Friday due to Hurricane Matthew expected to hit the Georgia coast.
Lumpkin is continuing to cross examine Shumpert, a crime scene technician who documented evidence in Harris’ SUV and his home.
Lumpkin showedShumpert crime scene photos. In one, clouds are visible. There were thunderstorms rolling in that day even though it was hot
In another, the red car seat is visible in the backseat of the car.
The court is now in recess for lunch.
Shumpert described the smell in the SUV as a “dirty diaper smell,” hot, sweaty and like a diaper with urine.
Lumpkin pointed out that Shumpert did include mention of the smell in his initial crime scene report.
“To me, it was unremarkable,” Shumpert said. “It’s a baby, it’s a toddler, he had a wet diaper.”
Lumpkin points out in a photograph air conditioning condensation from the car. Shumpert said the car was running when he arrived.
Lumpkin shows a picture of the temperature gauge inside the SUV. The temperature was 95 degrees.
The defense attorney Bryan Lumpkin is now cross examining Shumpert.
Lumpkin asked Shumpert about his training, how to handle a scene, handle evidence, make reports.
Lumpkin uses a digital SLR camera with a lens that we can zoom and magnify objects at a crime scene. “It’s not just a point and shoot camera," he said.
Lumpkin asked if sometimes Shumpert sometimes wishes after the fact that he got a photo of a certain object at the scene but did not. Shumpert said that yes, it happens sometimes.
Evans then produces both computers and asks Shumpert to authenticate both. He does. Evans asks him whether Shumpert himself analyzed the computers.
“No,” he said. “We have a high-tech crime squad that examines all data from crime-scene devices that we collect.”
Shumpert confirms that he was sent back to the apartment 12 days later to see whether there were lightbulbs in the apartment that had gone out. This refers to Harris’s purchase of light bulbs on the day Cooper died -- light bulbs that he threw into the front seat of his car hours after leaving Cooper in the back seat to die. He has claimed that he didn't see Cooper in the car; prosecutors and police say he couldn't have missed the little boy.
Evans then tenders the witness to the defense. Bryan Lumpkin, a member of the three-lawyer team, cross-examines Shumpert.
Investigator Shumpert drove to the Harrises' apartment and took photos there. He authenticates a number of the photos for the prosecutor, including images of Cooper Harris's bedroom.
Shumpert has now been on the stand for more than two hours and still is under direct examination by the prosecution.
Evans asks Shumpert to describe items associated with children that he photographed in the apartment. First was a jogging stroller folded and leaning against the wall in the front hallway. Next is a scattering of toys in the living room, including a ball and various push toys. Next comes the dining area and kitchen, with a high chair at the table, some children's "sippy cups" in a drain basket near the sink and a children's bookbag hanging on the wall. The next image shows Cooper's bedroom, with his crib and a bed on the opposite wall. There are stuffed animals on the bed.
"Were there essentially children's items in almost every room of the house?" Evans asks.
"Yes," comes the reply.
He shows a zoomed-in photo of the Harrises' living-room bookshelf and asks Shumpert to read the titles of several books: "His Needs, Her Needs." "Sacred Marriage." "Calm My Anxious Heart." "Breaking Free."
Shumpert also shows images of a Dell computer tower and a MacBook Pro that he seized at the apartment.
Prosecutor Evans asks the crime scene investigator to describe some abrasions on Cooper's face. "Some scratches where the skin is starting to lift up," Shumpert said.
He shows some additional photos. At the defense table, Harris, seemingly in distress, will not look at the images of his dead son. His head rests on his right fist and is turned away from the images.
Now Evans is showing videos shot by investigator Shumpert at the scene and goes through much the same set of questions about whether Cooper's car seat is visible from various angles from outside the SUV.
The next video is played, and Harris reacts the same way. Now his open right hand is covering his eyes and he appears to wipe away tears.
Evans then directs the witness's attention to a zoomed-in photo of the SUV's dashboard and asks him about the temperature readout on the dash.
"Ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit," Shumpert replies, the temperature outside at that time.
Evans then steers Shumpert to his processing of the "secondary" scenes, including Harris's office nearby at the so-called "Treehouse," which houses Home Depot offices and Harris's home at the Wynns Ridge development.
He displays aerial images showing the relative proximity of the Treehouse, the Little Apron Academy (Cooper's daycare center), the Chick-fil-A and the Harrises' home at Wynns Ridge. Little Apron is where Harris was supposed to have taken his son after breakfast at the Chick-fil-A that day. The Treehouse parking lot is the place where Harris drove instead, leaving Cooper in the car to die on that sweltering day.
Judge Mary Staley Clark returns to the bench after the midmorning break and says that, because of the impending hurricane, the trial will go into recess at noon on Thursday and will not convene on Friday. She notes, however, that evacuation orders have not been issued and she plans to remain on St. Simons when Hurricane Matthew strikes this weekend.
"Apparently we attract hurricanes," Staley Clark told the jury when it came back in. She notes that a storm struck during jury selection, and now another is on the way.
Testimony resumes at 10:40.
The attorney and witness run through several images of the scene at the parking lot, including some containing the body of Cooper covered by the sheet.
Shumpert is a confident witness who often directs his comments directly to the jury.
Evans shows images of Harris’s car from several angles and asks the witness whether he can see Cooper’s car seat through the windows in each, trying to drive home the point that the car seat is visible from several vantage points outside the car. The witness says he can see the car seat in every instance. Then Evans shows images of the inside of the vehicle to demonstrate the close proximity of the car seat to the front seat. Because the car seat is rear-facing, Evans demonstrates that the child’s head would have been inches away from his father.
“Now we’re going to talk about Cooper Harris,” Evans said, showing photos taken after the sheet was removed from the body.
“To me it appeared that he was laying on the ground probably in the same position he was in the car seat. His knees were slightly bent, his arms were to his sides,” Shumpert said.
These images are not visible on the courtroom video feed. The camera is focused on the witness’s face and the attorney’s back, with the viewing screen beside them.
“After Investigator Jackson turned Cooper over … can you describe what you saw?” Evans asked, referring to the medical examiner's field investigator.
“When Investigator Jackson rolled Cooper over, the back of his shirt was wet, and you can actually see the wetness in the top of his blue shorts.”
He then answered several questions about the body’s “lividity,” or areas of the corpse in which blood has settled and bruised the skin.
The court takes a brief break, the judge admonishing the jury not speak with each other about the testimony.
“It was a young child, toddler age, lying on its back on the pavement, knees slightly bent, hands to its sides,” he continued. “… Had some scratches on his face. He was wearing a little shirt that had bicycles on it and little tennis shows. … He was noticeably to me in rigor (mortis). …”
Evans: “Were you able to get close enough to actually smell Cooper?”
“I’d describe the smell as a hot, musty, urine-soaked diaper. … His shorts and shirt were noticeably wet.”
He said Cooper’s body was about three feet from the vehicle. In response to a question, he said the pavement was exceedingly hot and there were several places other than the pavement where Harris could have put Cooper’s body down.
Evans goes through a number of crime scene photos of the Harris SUV. Then he turns to images of Cooper Harris “both covered and uncovered,” plus several detailed images of the body, and asks Shumpert to authenticate them. He does. Evans also shows the witness DVDs containing video Shumpert shot at the scene and, later, at the Harrises’ home.
Evans arranges the big projection screen in the courtroom and asks Shumpert to join him there to narrate the images for the jury.
The prosecution calls Brad Shumpert, a crime scene technician for Cobb police, who is sworn in at 9:16. He has worked for Cobb police for nine years and was assigned to the crimes against persons unit at the time of Cooper Harris’s death. He is being questioned by Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans.
He points out that the place where Cooper’s body was discovered — or where Ross Harris said he first realized Cooper was in his car — is quite near the location where the new Braves stadium is rising. “At the intersection of Interstate 75 and I-285. Major corridor, lots of people,” he said.
Police had put up a sheet to block off the view of Cooper’s body in the parking lot.
“The first thing I would do would be getting with whoever is the scene commander from my unit. Then I’d conduct a walkthrough with them. … Lieutenant Ferrell said, ‘We have a deceased male child,’ and I should go photograph the scene.”
Evans: “Did you document in this case Cooper Harris’s condition in any way, shape or form?”
“It was a hot June Georgia day,” he continued, when asked about the weather that evening. “Thunderstorms were brewing off to the west, and we saw fit to put up a shelter because you never know when those popup storms are going to happen.”
“I walked around the vehicle just to look at it and casually observe it. … The vehicle was a silver in color, bluish … a small crossover SUV. I could clearly see in the back a rear-facing car seat that was red and black in color.”
He said the body of Cooper Harris lay in the parking lot covered with a sheet.
Evans: “You did not actually put the sheet on Cooper, is that right?”
Shumpert: “No, it was already lying on him when I arrived.”
He said the medical examiner took charge of the body and inspected it.