Caption

Minute by minute in the Justin Ross Harris trial

This is a running account of the first day of the murder trial of Justin Ross Harris, who is accused of murder in the hot-car death of his son, Cooper. For a linear chronology, start reading from the 9:10 a.m. mark and work your way upward.

5:16 p.m.

Court is adjourning for today. Come back to AJC.com tomorrow for our live coverage.

5:14 p.m.

Kilgore also questioned Pantano, asking him what happened.

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"When I initially got in the car, I asked (Harris) what was going on and he said, 'I left him in the car. I've left him in the car,'" Pantano testified.

Harris was frantic trying to unbuckle the seat-belt, Pantano said. 

Pantano said that he tried to get Harris to focus and perform CPR. During the time of the CPR, there wasn’t a lot of emotion at that point, he said.

"We were trying to focus on what if anything we could do for the child," Pantano said.

Harris then walked away from Cooper.

5:06 p.m.

Boring called another witness, Anthony Pantano, who tried to help Cooper. Pantano and Hawkins worked together. 

Pantano testified that he heard tires screeching and then screaming after Harris’ SUV pulled into the parking lot. He ran to the vehicle to see if he could help and saw Harris trying to unbuckle the car seat to get Cooper out. 

Pantano said that after a “couple of chest compressions and one breath” Harris got up and walked away from Cooper.

Witness James Hawkins was working nearby when Harris drove into the parking lot at Akers Mill Square. He wiped away tears as he spoke of Cooper's condition when he tried to administer CPR. (Screen capture from WSB-TV video)

4:50 p.m. 

Prosecutor Boring called a witness, James Hawkins, who was working on decorative lights outside of a restaurant at the shopping center. 

He saw Harris pull the baby out of the SUV and lay him on the asphalt, Hawkins testified. 

“He was fumbling around with him,” Hawkins said. “It wasn’t right whatever he was doing, so I kind of just moved him out of the way and started CPR.” 

Hawkins said that Harris walked away from Cooper, while Hawkins stayed to perform CPR. He said he knew Cooper was dead after blowing two breaths into the baby’s mouth, but he continued to perform CPR until police arrived. 

Hawkins described Cooper’s body while blotting away tears using a tissue. 

“His tongue was sticking out,” he said. “His hands were clinched. He was just straight up dead.”

4:25 p.m. 

"The bottom line is you don’t think (Harris) was acting right, do you?” Kilgore asked Piper. "You think he should have been crying more?” 

Piper said that she thought it was unusual that Harris wasn't with his son. 

Kilgore asked Piper, "Do you think he should have been screaming more?” 

Piper responded that in her experience as a 911 dispatcher, she usually heard from callers "frantic voices. They’re usually not separated from the scene like I saw (with Harris).” 

Kilgore asked Piper whether she knew anything about Harris at the time she wrote her initial incident report. 

"Did you know anything about what he did for a living?," he asked. "You certainly did not know anything about his personality." 

Piper replied: "I don’t know him personally.” 

Kilgore pointed out that Piper did not know whether Harris is a stoic person or shows a lot of emotions. "And you certainly don't know how Ross deals with trauma." 

"No, I do not," Piper replied. 

4:15 p.m. 

In questioning Piper, Kilgore pointed out that Piper has testified previously that Harris was left-handed because she saw him hold his cell phone in his left hand. But, he pointed out, Harris is actually right-handed. 

Piper said she wasn't aware of that fact and that it would have been more accurate to say Harris had the phone in his left hand, not that he was left-handed. 

Kilgore also challenged Piper's opinion that Harris' yelling was "monotone" and didn't sound like a "scream of anguish." 

"You don’t know him, you’ve never heard him yell before,” Kilgore said. 

“I have not, ” Piper replied. 

But, she said, in response to questions from Kilgore that she did not think his scream the situation based on her experiences with people in similar situations. 

3:56 p.m. 

During the time Harris is in the car, Detective Stoddard went up to the car to talk with him, according to Piper. Stoddard is the lead investigator in the case. 

Boring also showed photos of Harris, appearing to be talking on the phone before he is detained by officers. Piper said Harris appeared to be calm when he was walking. 

The defense is now preparing to cross-examine Piper. 

3:48 p.m. 

Piper exits the car and begins searching for something in the front seat. 

Harris asks “What are you looking for?” She replies a cell phone, and he asks if she’s looking for his phone. 

As he exits the car, Harris comments that the handcuffs he’s wearing are different from those in Tuscaloosa where he worked in law enforcement. 

The video is stopped. 

3:40 p.m. 

Court is back in session, and the jurors are watching the rest of the video of Piper transporting Harris to police headquarters. 

3:24 p.m. 

Court is currently in recess but should return shortly.

 

2:58 p.m. 

As Piper transports Harris to police headquarters, he asks her how long she’s been in law enforcement. She responds about two and a half years but then tells Harris she cannot talk to him. 

They then continue to sit in silence with Harris staring straightforward. 

2:35 p.m. 

At times, Harris appears to hang his head and rest it against the backseat headrest. He also appears to cry periodically, his shoulders shaking. He continues staring out the back windshield. 

2:26 p.m. 

After sitting for a while, seemingly calmly, in the back of the patrol car, Harris begins to sob and cry out. 

He says: “God, what have I done? What have I done? What have I done? Oh my god. Oh my god. What have I done? My boy. My boy. Oh my God.” 

2:09 p.m. 

In the video, Harris is visible sitting in the back of Piper’s patrol car. 

Harris said he wants to stand up but isn’t allowed to. He complains that it’s hot and asks why he is being detained. Piper does not answer the question. 

Harris looks out the windows, seemingly calmly and not crying or yelling, as he sits in the backseat. 

He continues to shift repeatedly in the back eat, at one point turning around to look out the rear windshield. 

2:01 p.m. 

The video starts with Piper’s patrol car going to the scene, sirens blaring, and she pulls up into the parking lot where Harris' SUV is. 

When Harris is in the back of Piper's patrol care, Harris asked for the cuffs to be taken off. He says there are people he needs to call 

Harris sounds calm and coherent as he says he needs to call the daycare center before his wife gets there because Cooper won’t be there. 

“Please take these cuffs off me, I promise to come down," Harris said to Piper. 

He answers Piper’s questions calmly, including his name, address, social security number, names of his wife and son. 

When asked what time he was supposed to drop Cooper off at the daycare center, Harris responded around 9 a.m.. 

“I swore I dropped him off. I thought I did," he told Piper. 

“I used to work in law enforcement. I’m just really upset,” he also said while in the car. 

1:50 p.m. 

Boring continued his questioning of Jacqueline Piper, who was one of the police officers who responded to the scene where Harris pulled over and found Cooper dead. 

The prosecutor is now playing an hour and a half video taken from Piper’s patrol car. 

1:44 p.m. 

Court is back in session. 

12:11 p.m. 

Boring showed the jury photo after photo where Cooper's body under a white sheet was visible. 

Court is now in recess until 1:30 p.m. 

Return for updates. 

12:05 p.m. 

Boring and Piper are going over photos of the scene that show Harris' blue Hyundai SUV. Piper said they covered Cooper's body with a white sheet. His body was on the ground on the driver's side of the SUV. 

11:49 a.m. 

Piper said that on the ride to police headquarters, Harris was looking out windows "kind of nonchalant" and tried to engage her in conversation. 

He asked her how long she had been in law enforcement. His demeanor did not appear consistent with someone who had just lost a child, according to her. 

"It made me very uncomfortable," she said. 

He also made a comment that "these handcuffs weren't what he was used to," Piper said. 

11:40 a.m. 

While in the patrol car, Harris also complained about handcuffs being too tight and again said it was too hot, Piper said. 

“I told him things were as good as they were going to get,” said Piper, who did loosen his handcuffs. 

During this time, Harris never asked about Cooper, she said. "He never mentioned his son." 

11:34 a.m. 

When Piper questioned Harris, he spelled out his name phonetically, such as A-alpha, B-bravo, which she thought was unusual because "most people don't do that." Harris also tried to make it clear several times that he used to be in law enforcement, she said. 

Harris had to be told multiple times to get all the way into the car. When he did, "he immediately complained about how hot it was in my vehicle," Piper said. 

Piper said, however, that the AC was on and working correctly. Piper was wearing 30 pounds of gear, including a bullet proof vest, so she always kept the AC on to be able to cool down. 

11:23 a.m. 

Piper said that Harris first appeared calm but then began yelling in a "monotone" manner "that just seemed very forced." 

Harris also told a fellow officer to "Shut the (expletive) up, my son just died" when she told him to put away his cell phone. He approached the officer, Piper said, so they handcuffed him. 

While handcuffed, Harris tried to slide his phone into his back pocket, but she took it from him. 

Jacqueline Piper answers questions while on the stand at Harris' murder trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday, Oct. 4, 2016. Piper was one of the Cobb police officers who responded to the scene when Justin Ross Harris pulled over and found Cooper dead. (screen capture via (WSBTV)) (WSBTV)

11:11 a.m. 

Cobb County prosecutor Chuck Boring is interviewing Jacqueline Piper, who was one of the police officers who responded to the scene where Harris pulled over and found Cooper dead. 

Piper was eating with a fellow officer at a Shane's Rib Shack about a mile away from the scene when she heard a call from a fellow officer. His voice was stressed, and he said there was a child not breathing. Piper said. 

When she arrived, she met with fellow officers to see if there was anything they could do. 

“I saw Cooper on the ground," Piper said. "His legs were stiff, almost like he was fixed in a sitting position." 

11:03 a.m. 

Court is now back in session. 

  

10:40 a.m. 

Kilgore has finished his opening statement and the court has recessed for a break. 

At the end of his statement, Kilgore said he intends to call Harris' ex-wife, Leanna Taylor, to testify. 

"He took everything from her," Kilgore said. "He cheated on her; he humiliated her in front of the whole world. He’s responsible for the death of her only little boy. She ought to hate him.” 

But, Kilgore said, Taylor will testify that "'he was unfaithful to me, he didn’t do me right in our marriage' … But she’s also going to tell you Ross Harris loved that little boy more than anything in the world ... "'Despite what he’s done to me, what he’s done to us, what he’s done to Cooper, he loved that little boy more than anything.'" 

Defense lawyer Maddox Kilgore delivers his opening statement during Justin Ross Harris' murder trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday, Oct. 4, 2016. (screen capture via (WSBTV)) (WSBTV)

10:36 a.m. 

Kilgore explained the difference between short-term memory and long-term memory or what he called "habit memory." 

"The memory is an amazing and miraculous thing, but it’s not perfect and sometimes it fails use," he said. 

When people have the same routine every day, they stop thinking about it -- the brain essentially goes on autopilot. We can't remember the experience of brushing our teeth from one day to the next. 

"We don't think about it," Kilgore said. "It all runs together. ... We can lose awareness in a moment." 

That's what happened to Harris, the defense attorney argued. His habit memory kicked and he forgot Cooper was in the car." 

“Ross never forgot that he had a son,” Kilgore said. "That wasn’t the issue. He’s just lost awareness that he’s in the car." 

10:28 a.m. 

Harris, Kilgore said, has no history of abuse or neglect. "He was a very engaged dad. He was very involved in his son's life." 

He had recently looked into a family cruise vacation for himself, his wife and Cooper. Harris, Kilgore said, was also searching for family homes with a big yard and a good school district. He even had a real estate agent. 

"Is that something a wild, childless bachelor wants?" Kilgore said. "He's planning for a future with his son." 

At the same time, there's no evidence that Harris search for criminal defense attorneys or anything that would make sense for someone planning to commit murder, Kilgore said. 

"He does no searches for the biggest event of his life?" 

10:18 a.m. 

Kilgore addressed the prosecution's argument that there was a "stench" in the car that Harris should have smelled immediately when he got in the SUV to drive to the movies. 

But Kilgore said that no first responders or witnesses reported any such stench. And, he said, a crime scene investigator who closely examined the SUV never mentioned "a stench of death" in his report. 

Kilgore also addressed Harris' use of Whisper, a website that allows people to post secrets anonymously. "Ross followed Whisper like a lot of people follow Facebook," Kilgore said. 

Harris commented on a Whisper post, saying “I love my son and all but we both need escapes.”... But he also commented on a lot of other posts about coffee, Macs and other random topics. 

"It was one of the random as heck things he responded to that morning,” Kilgore said. 

10:03 a.m. 

Kilgore said that Harris did not do a Google search for how long it takes a dog to die in a hot car but that he clicked on a link he came across to a popular public service announcement video. 

Harris Googled many things, Kilgore said, a lot of it sexual but also about sports, music and guitars. What he never typed into Google, the defense attorney said was "child death, hot car ... how long does it take a child to die in a hot car?" 

"He never searched those things," Kilgore said. "It was something that was made up by the Cobb County police department." 

Ross Harris wipes away tears during his attorney’s opening statement Tuesday in Harris’s murder trial in Brunswick. (Screen capture from WSB-TV video) (Halicks, Richard (CMG-Atlanta))

 

9:44 a.m. 

Harris wept at the defense table as Kilgore described his reaction to his son's death, his shoulders shaking, wiping his nose and using a tissue to dry his tears.Kilgore played raw video that showed Harris at time hysterical over the death of Cooper. 

One segment showed Harris crying uncontrollably in a police interrogation room with his head on the table.

 

"No tears, no real emotion, that's how (the police) summarized what you just saw," Kilgore said to the jury. 

Harris, Kilgore said, cooperated with the police, trying to remain calm and answering detectives' questions. If Harris was going to put on some sort of show for the police, that was the time to do it, the defense attorney said. 

“You’re going to see someone just trying to answer questions under the most stressful situation imaginable.” 

Kilgore also showed video of Harris when he was allowed to see his wife. She hugged him, consoling him, as he cried uncontrollably. 

Harris said "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I loved him so much," Kilgore said. "He may have been an adulterer but he was devastated by the loss of his son." 

9:27 a.m. 

Lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore began his opening statement by saying that the prosecution is right about one thing -- Justin Ross Harris is responsible for his son's death. 

“Ross is responsible. It’s his fault, there’s no doubt about it," Kilgore said with emotion in his voice. "From the moment he drove down the road, looked back over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of cooper in the back, he knew what he had done.” Kilgore said that Harris desperately pulled Cooper out of the car and tried to do CPR but was "too overwhelmed and couldn't concentrate." 

Harris, according to the defense attorney, said at the time, "My god, what have I done? I killed my boy, I’m so sorry, Cooper, I’m so sorry.” 

Harris has always acknowledged that Cooper's death was his fault, Kilgore said. 

“Ross loved that little boy more than anything," the defense attorney said. "Cooper’s death was an accident, it was always an accident. And that’s exactly what he told the police.” 

Kilgore told the jury that they are going to hear a lot of really bad things about Ross Harris, sexually immoral behavior. He described Harris' sexting with women who weren't as wife as gross, filthy and graphic. 

But, Kilgore said, “Ross’ sex life no matter how perverse and nasty and wrong that we think it is, it doesn’t have a thing in the world to do with the fact that he forgot that little boy. Nothing.” 

Sexual behavior isn’t some kind of motive for murdering “the person he loved more than anything in the world," Kilgore said. "What it is, is evidence of his filthy sex life. That's all it is." 

9:13 a.m. 

Court is now in session. The defense is preparing to deliver its opening statement as the jury enters the room.

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