Minute-by-minute in the Ross Harris murder trial

This is a running account of the fourth day of testimony in the Justin Ross Harris murder case. Harris is charged with murder in the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by leaving him in his SUV for hours on a hot June day in 2014. For a linear chronology, start with the last item (9:45) first.

3 p.m.

Grimstead testified that he took detailed measurements of the car seat with respect to other objects in the car. In response to questioning from Evans, he said that the top of Cooper's car seat, which was where his head would have been, is 3.5 inches from the top right of the driver's seat -- underscoring the prosecution's contention that it would have been difficult for Harris to miss the fact that Cooper was in the car.

2:30 p.m.

The first witness this afternoon (the fifth of the day) is Cobb County police Detective Carey Grimstead, who was a crime-scene investigator at the time of Cooper's death.

Prosecutor Jesse Evans is handling the direct examination.

Evans: I want to talk about a particular technology that's relatively new to the police deparment. Are you familiar with 3D mapping?

Grimstead: Yes. ... What it does is, it shoots lasers out -- whatever that laser strikes, it records a distance. ... takes photographs at the same time. ... I've probably scanned 15 or 20 (crime) scenes, not to mention the practice we've done.

Grimstead says he was assigned to inspect Ross Harris's Hyundai Tucson, which had been taken to a crime-scene processing shed.

Evans: (Talk about the difference) where a deceased  person has been there for a while, rather than a fresh homicide.

Grimstead: When a person has been dead for a while, the natural organisms in the body begin to degrade the body. It's called rot, for lack of a better term. ... Rigor mortis is a stiffening of the tendons after death. Onset of it is usually within 24 hours.

He says he was notified at 11 p.m. that a search warrant had been obtained for Harris's car, and he began processing the vehicle. When he opened the car door, he caught a "heavy odor of like a sweat, urine type smell in the vehicle."

Evans: Have you smelled that odor before?

Grimstead: Yes. It's an odor that I normally associate with death. It's very hard to describe the odor. Like a sickly sweat smell. (The SUV was closed up when it was parked at the shed.)

Evans then rolls the mobile flat screen over toward the jury. "You're used to this thing finally," he says to laughter from the jury box. Then he asks Grimstead to join him near the screen. He then takes Grimstead through some photos of the car from different angles. In response to questions, the officer notes that he could see Cooper's car seat from from more than one vantage point from outside the vehicle. Evans then shows a series of images of the interior of the car. The image from the rear storage area directly forward clearly shows the rear-facing car seat. Evans establishes that the car seat was visible from several vantage points inside the car. Evans is obviously laying a foundation for the state's argument that Harris could not have missed the fact that his son was in the car, even if he forgot to drop him at daycare.

2 p.m.

The parties have returned from lunch, and the jury is being seated.

12:30 p.m.

Defense attorney Bryan Lumpkin handles the cross-examination of Cobb police Capt. James Ferrell. He asks about Ferrell's instructions to the crime-scene technician on the case.

Ferrell: I said, "Hey, this is a serious case, and I want you to document case just like you were documenting a homicide case. Everything video'd, everything  photographed from every different angle, and collect every piece of evidence to the best of your ability."

Lumpkin asks whether Ferrell viewed this as a crime scene or an accident scene.

Ferrell: If you leave a child inside a car, and the child dies, it's a criminal case. ... It's just a question of how serious the criminal charges are. ]

He then reiterates this point even more firmly. Lumpkin moves on.

Lumpkin: As you came up to the driver's-side door, you noticed that the  vehicle was running and the air-conditioning was on. How were you able to make that determination?

Ferrell: You could hear it blowing inside the car. ... I was standing right outside the driver's-side door.

Lumpkin: Can you tell us exactly what that distance was?

Ferrell: I would say within a foot. .... I stuck my head inside the car. That was because I smelled something coming out of the car. So I stuck my head inside to see what the smell was.

Lumpkin: Do you recall in your mind, about 30, 36 inches was how close his body was to you. You might not have necessarily stepped over the body, but you would've had to step around the body.... You described the smell .. .

Ferrell: It smelled like several things. The odor of a diaper, the sweat and  the odor of death.

Lumpkin: You call it a unique odor of death, is that right?

Ferrell: Yes, sir.

Lumpkin: You said you smelled this before?

Ferrell: Many times, yes.

Lumpkin: The smell you referred to in your report -- you specifically indicated that when you leaned down, you could smell the odor of decay and his diaper?

Ferrell: I could smell the odor of whatever gases come off a dead body. And the diaper.

Lumpkin: That's from your experience from the many scenes you have been to.

Ferrell: It has been my experience, yes sir.

Harris is listening attentively but not appearing to react emotionally.

Lumpkin: The smell, did you note that to anybody at the scene?

Ferrell says he didn't mention it to anyone until he spoke with Detective Stoddard later that night at the station.

Lumpkin: Was there anyone else present when you made this disclosure?

Ferrell: (Names several detectives.) There would have been any number of people standing around. It was a conversation we had outside my office when he first came out of his interview with Harris. ...

Ferrell testified earlier that he failed to file a report on his observations from the scene -- including the odor he says he detected -- until many months later, perhaps a year. Lumpkin quizzes him on why he waited so long.

Ferrell: There's no excuse. I just failed to write that report in a timely manner.

Lumpkin: You just forgot? Fair to say?

Ferrell: Asked and answered, sir. I did forget it.

Lumpkin wraps up his cross and the judge sends the jury to lunch.

Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV


Lead prosecutor Chuck Boring questions the next witness, James Ferrell, a captain with Cobb County police department. Ferrell was a lieutenant in the crimes against persons unit at the time Cooper died.

Boring then asks how Ferrell came to assign Detective Phil Stoddard as the lead detective on the Harris investigation.

Ferrell said two detectives were initially called to the scene. But he suspected that two would not be enough and ordered two more to the Akers Mill shopping center. Stoddard was one of the second two.

Ferrell: Detectives Stoddard and Murphy came down (to the scene). ...  The reason that I actually picked Detective Stoddard is that he had a little bit different experience. . .. He had experience working crimes against children. ... and with our homicide unit.

At length, Ferrell inspected the vehicle in which Cooper died. Here, Boring elicited important testimony that Ferrell smelled the odor of a dead person. Ferrell will be closely cross-examined on this later in the morning.

Ferrell: I smelled the interior of the car and noticed there was an odor inside the vehicle.

Boring: Could you describe the smell?

Ferrell: It was a combination of odors. You could smell the odor of a diaper from a child, and also -- from having a couple of kids-- the odor of sweat ... a child's sweat. And I smelled that really unusual odor that I can only associate with something that's dead. ... There's an odor associated with (death) that's very unique.

Boring: Was it a hot day, a cold day, something else?

Ferrell: It was a hot day.

Boring: Did you also assist the medical examiner's investigator as far as examining the child's body.

Ferrell: I did. ... typically one of our detectives will meet with the medical  examiner. I picked up that process that day. ... As he was (examining the body) I was listening to his report as to what he was seeing.

Boring: Did you get down close to the body?

Ferrell: I did.

Boring: Did you notice anything on the child's body of significance?

Ferrell: His hair was sweaty. It was matted down. His eyes were partially opened. Mouth was partially opened. His knees were bent.... there was a small scratch on his face, it might have been from a fingernail or something.

Ferrell: Did you notice any smells associated with the body?

Boring: When I was standing there, I couldn't smell anything coming off the body. But when I got down close to the child, I could actually smell the only thing I can describe as the smell of a dead body. ... The sweat, the diaper, the dead body.

Boring ends his direct examination, and the defense takes over.

Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV

11:45 a.m.

Prosecutor Jesse Evans continues his direct examination of paramedic Peyton Barwick.

Evans: Were you able to assess the demeanor of the defendant in the back of the police car?

Barwick: Yes, sir.

Evans: Please describe his demeanor when you saw him.

Barwick: Very dry. Showed no emotion. Was not crying.

Evans: Was he able to speak calmly with you when you asked your questions?

Barwick: Yes, sir.

Evans: Did you ask the defendant for a timeline of the events of that day?

Barwick: Yes, sir. Per my report, he said he ate breakfast with Cooper around 8:45 that morning, and then he went to work around 9 a.m. He rolled up his windows, locked the car, walked (into work).

Evans hands the witness over to the defense. Carlos Rodriguez handles the cross-examination for the defense team.

Rodriguez: When you're called out, you have no idea you're responding to a crime scene, correct?

Barwick: Yes.

Rodriguez: Is it typical to have multiple callouts on a given day?

Barwick: Yes, sir. I finished my report before I received another call.

Rodriguez: Why did you do it that way?

Barwick: The situation being what it was, I thought there was a good chance I might get called into court, and I wanted to get it all down accurately.

Rodriguez asks him about the process of writing his report, where it goes, who reviews it, etc.

Barwick: ... Once I submit my report, I can't make any changes to it.

Rodriguez suggests that the paramedic made a mistake in the report.

Rodriguez: You indicated that the child was alert.

Barwick: I did.

Rodriguez: Cooper was obviously not alert.

Barwick: In medical terms, alert just means your eyes are open.

Rodriguez: You testified that the dad, Mr. Ross Harris, was already in custody. It was before you asked Mr. Thurlow (an EMT) to put a blanket over the child that PD had advised you that this was a crime scene?

Barwick: I said it was a crime scene from my point of view.

Barwick was asked whether, when the two spoke in the back of a police car, he remembered Harris asking him anything about Cooper.

Barwick: Yes, sir. He said, "Is he dead?" I said, "Yes, sir, he's deceased."

Rodriguez on re-cross: You were asked about what Mr. Harris had asked you. You didn't include that in the report, either, did you?

Barwick: No, sir.

You don't know whether Mr. Harris was asking you with all hope that his child was still alive?

Barwick: No, sir.

The witness is excused.

11:25 a.m.

Peyton Barwick, paramedic, is sworn in as the next witness. He works for Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service, which covers most of Cobb County. He says he handles eight to 12 calls a day and explains that paramedics have more advanced training than EMTs. Prosecutor Jesse Evans handles the direct examination.

Evans: June 18, 2014, were you dispatched to a location to assess Cooper Harris.

Barwick: Yes.

Evans: What was the nature of your initial call?

Barwick: We received a call to Mattio's restaurant about an infant ... receiving CPR and not breathing. ... I saw Cooper Harris laying on the ground. Police officers were already at the scene. There was no one doing CPR on Cooper, and the father was already in the back of the police car. ... There was no brachial pulse or carotid pulse, and the patient wasn't breathing.

Evans: Do you recall the temperature that day? Was it a hot day?

Barwick: It was warm.

Evans: Did you find anything unusual about Cooper's state and where he was located?

Barwick: He was outside the vehicle and there was nobody doing CPR.

Evans: Did you note anything about his condition when you went to examine Cooper?

Barwick: His eyes were glazed over. Rigor mortis and lividity had both set in.

Evans: With the eyes being fixed as they were, what did that indicate to you?

Barwick: There was no ... presence of life. ... I asked my partner to go get a sheet, because there were several people around looking at the scene. ... It was a 2-year-old boy laying on the ground, and people didn't need  to see that.

10:55 a.m.

The word is that the audio has been fixed during the break.

10:50 a.m.

Attorney Kilgore's questions are almost completely inaudible. The witness, however, comes through loud and clear.

The question was unclear, but here was the answer:

Redmon: Yes, he seemed to love his child.

Judge Staley Clark calls for the midmorning break.

10:45 a.m.

Kilgore asks the witness whether and how he knew Ross Harris.

He had earlier explained that, with regular customers, he tried to remember something distinctive about that person as a trigger to help him recognize the person the next time he or she came in.

Redmon: ... I remember that he was wearing an Alabama shirt, so we talked a little football. From then on, I would always remember that he was an Alabama fan, so we would have pleasant interactions.

Kilgore (later): He was a friendly guy, wasn't he?

Witness: Yes.

Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV

10:35 a.m.

The next witness is Chris Redmon, the former general manager at the Chick-fil-A.

Treadaway: Tell the jury what you can recall about your interaction with the defendant (that morning).

Redmon: I was bringing ice to the front counter. I saw Mr. Harris and Cooper at the front counter. I said, "Who's this little guy?" It was Cooper, and I said, "Hey Coop (waving)." ... I went back to the office and had my back pack and had a meeting with two of our leaders in the dining room as they were having breakfast.

Treadaway: Were you able to observe the defendant (in the dining room)?

Redmon: He was probably more in this corner, he said, pointing at the image on the screen.

The prosecutor points to a still image of Harris at the counter with Cooper. In the frame, he is shaking hands with the witness, across the counter, while holding Cooper in his left arm.

She asks whether the time stamp, which reads 9:18 a.m., is accurate. He confirms.

Treadaway: Did you notice anything unusual about his appearance?

Redmon: It struck me as unusual that he seemed to be clean-shaven. There may've been a 5 o'clock shadow there. That was the thought that went through my head. A little bit of a 5 o'clock shadow.

Treadaway tenders the witness to the defense.

10:11 a.m.

Audio feed still unreliable. Our reporters in the courtroom text that the feed is supposed to be fixed during the court's midmorning break. Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore is going over an aerial image with the witness, Kyle Weston, showing the location of the Chick-fil-A, the roadways Harris used and other nearby businesses.

10 a.m.

A second video, from a different angle, captures the same scene. Harris is holding Cooper with his right arm and then shifts the toddler to his left so he can retrieve his wallet. He then moves out of the frame, still carrying his son.

The witness returns to the stand.

She shows him a still image of an exterior view showing how the defendant would have driven out of the Chick-fil-A parking lot and then made a U-turn onto Cumberland Parkway. (From there, Harris drove up to a traffic light. He should have turned left to take Cooper to a daycare a short distance away. Instead, he went straight and drove into the parking lot at the Treehouse, an office building where Harris worked for Home Depot.)

Weston says he was first interviewed by police at the restaurant concerning Harris’s visit.

Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV

9:45 a.m.

Judge Mary Staley Clark brings in the jury at 9:30 a.m., and Day 4 is underway. Kyle Weston, former assistant manager of the Vinings Chick-fil-A restaurant, is on the stand. This is the restaurant at which Harris and his son had breakfast minutes before Harris left the little boy in his car in the parking lot at his office. The witness says he now works for Chick-fil-A Inc. in Utah. Assistant District Attorney Susan Treadaway is conducting the direct examination. She runs him through the cameras at the Vinings store’s counter and the drive-through.

She puts a DVD into the large-screen rig in the courtroom and invites the witness to step down to join her in front of the screen. The first image is still — a view of the front counter of the restaurant. (The audio feed is fading in and out.)

The audio feed has largely broken down, so the prosecutor’s questions and the witness’s responses are mostly inaudible. The video on the screen shows Ross Harris at the counter, holding Cooper. He orders and then pulls out his wallet and hands over a credit card. He then carries Cooper away, apparently to the dining room.