A Georgia jury convicted Justin Ross Harris of murder and other felonies Monday in the death of his 22-month-old son, who was left inside a hot SUV for hours.
Harris, 35, faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Dec. 5 in Cobb County, near Atlanta, on the eight counts of malice murder, felony murder, cruelty to children and dissemination of harmful materials to a minor. He has 30 days to appeal the convictions.
Cooper Harris died June 18, 2014, after having remained in his father's Hyundai Tucson for seven hours outside the Home Depot office where Harris worked in the Atlanta suburbs. Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark moved the trial 275 miles to the southern Georgia city of Brunswick, citing pretrial publicity in the Atlanta area.
Prosecutors contended that Harris intentionally planned to kill his son to escape his family responsibilities while he pursued sex with prostitutes and other women he met online. The dissemination charges stemmed from sexually explicit texts and photos he sent to an underage girl.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, the lead prosecutor, Cobb County Senior Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring, said even his team of veteran, hardened prosecutors was shaken by "the extent of the depravity we saw" in Harris' behavior.
"You have to accept it's possible for someone to be this evil," he said, but "it really affected everybody."
Maddox Kilgore, Harris' lead defense attorney, declined to take questions after the trial.
Defense lawyers conceded from the beginning that Harris was responsible for his son's death, but they argued that his actions weren't criminal. He simply forgot that his son was in the SUV because he'd changed his daily routine and had taken Cooper with him to breakfast instead of dropping him off at day care first.
Kilgore told jurors that Harris did, indeed, engage in "immoral sexual behavior" and "graphic, filthy sexual talk," but he said his client was trying to turn his life around and was talking with a real estate agent about finding a larger house in a good school district for his family.