Ross Harris’ hot car murder appeal still a work in progress

Justin Ross Harris was found guilty  of intentionally leaving his 18-month-old son Cooper in a hot car to die. (Family photo)
Justin Ross Harris was found guilty of intentionally leaving his 18-month-old son Cooper in a hot car to die. (Family photo)

Two years and four months after Justin Ross Harris was convicted in the sensational hot-car murder trial, his appeal still has a ways to go, his new lawyer said Tuesday.

During a brief court hearing, Marietta attorney Mitch Durham said he’s yet to read all of the thousands of pages of court transcripts for the case and will need quite a bit more time before he finishes.

“We are still going through it,” Durham told Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark. In describing the enormous record he has to examine, Durham indicated it stands several feet tall if all the volumes are stacked atop one another.

» PHOTOSFamily pictures from the Ross Harris trial

Harris, a former Home Depot web designer, was convicted in November 2016 of purposefully leaving his 22-month-old son Cooper in the family’s sweltering SUV. Cooper died June 18, 2014.

Staley Clark sentenced Harris to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 32 years for murder as well as cruelty to children and sexual exploitation of a minor. Harris is now serving his sentence in Macon State Prison in south-central Georgia.

Prosecutors said Harris killed his son so he could be free to pursue and sleep with as many women as possible. During the trial, jurors heard testimony from eight women who said they either had sex with Harris or exchanged sexually explicit messages, including nude photos, with him.

Justin Ross Harris begins prison term. (Photo courtesy of the Georgia Department of Corrections)
Justin Ross Harris begins prison term. (Photo courtesy of the Georgia Department of Corrections)

Harris’ trial attorneys strongly denied such a motive and insisted Harris left Cooper in his car by accident.

ExploreThe second season of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Breakdown podcast covered the trial from beginning to end.

Staley Clark had scheduled Tuesday's status hearing to find out where Harris' initial appeal — called a motion for a new trial — stands. She told Durham she understood why it was taking so long, given the weeks-long trial, pretrial motions hearings and a prolonged jury selection.

Staley Clark said she will schedule another status hearing in about six months to get another update.

After the hearing, Durham said he did not expect to be finished preparing the new trial motion by the time Staley Clark holds the next hearing. But he said he expects to have a good idea of when he will be ready by the time it is held.

Cobb prosecutor Chuck Boring said he was not surprised by the delay.

“Because of the nature of this case and the issues involved and the length of the trial, it’s not out of the ordinary for an appeal like this to take so long,” he said.