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Georgia Father Released From Prison a Decade After Toddler’s Hot Car Death


MACON, Ga. — A father from Georgia was freed from jail 10 years after his toddler died in a hot car. The case made news around the world when prosecutors charged him with murder.

Google records show that Justin Ross Harris was released from Macon State Prison on Sunday, which was Father’s Day. His time in prison started on December 6, 2016.

Harris moved for work in 2012 from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to the Atlanta area. He told the cops that he forgot to drop off his 22-month-old son Cooper at day care on the morning of June 18, 2014. He told police that he left the child in his car seat and went straight to work as a web worker at The Home Depot.

Cooper died after being in the back seat of his father’s Hyundai Tucson SUV for about seven hours. It was at least in the high 80s outside that day, near his father’s office in suburban Atlanta.

At Harris’s trial, the lawyers said they thought he killed his son to get away from his unhappy marriage. They showed proof of his sexual activities outside of marriage, such as sending and receiving sexually explicit messages and pictures with women and girls and meeting some of them for sex.

Harris was found guilty of eight counts in November 2016, one of which was murder with intent. He was given 32 more years in prison for other crimes and life in prison without the chance of release.

This was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court in June 2022, with a vote of 6-3. They said the information the jury saw was “extremely and unfairly prejudicial.”

The prosecutors said at the time that he would not be tried again for Cooper’s death. In a statement, the office of the Cobb County district attorney, which prosecuted the case, said it did not agree with the majority’s ruling. But because of that decision, prosecutors said they could no longer use important evidence about Harris’s motivation.

Harris’s lawyers have always said that he was a good dad and that the boy’s death was an unfortunate mistake.

Even though the murder case was thrown out, Harris was found guilty of three sex crimes against a 16-year-old girl, and he had not appealed those convictions. He kept doing time for those crimes until Sunday, when he was let out of jail.

Harris’s case got a lot of attention. It was in the news all over the world and led to debates online and on television news shows. Because of all the attention before the trial, it was too hard to find a fair jury in Cobb County, which is in the suburbs of Atlanta. The judge in charge decided to move the trial to Brunswick, which is on the coast of Georgia.

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