The final jury panel was chosen and seated on Oct. 3 for the murder trial of a man who is accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son in a car to die.
Justin Ross Harris, 35, faces first-degree murder charges for the June 2014 death of the toddler, who died of hyperthermia while locked in Harris’ SUV.
According to defense attorney Maddox Kilgore, Harris merely forgot his son was in the car. However, investigators say Harris researched child deaths inside vehicles prior to the tragedy, and the prosecution contends that he intentionally killed his son.
The medical examiner reports estimate that the temperature inside the car reached 120 degrees. Cooper was found dead eight hours after his father left him in the vehicle.
The prosecution contends that Harris wanted his son out of his life so he could be more free to pursue extra-marital affairs. In opening statements on Oct. 3, Cobb County Senior Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told the jury that, “on that day, when his son was cooking to death, he was texting with a 16-year-old girl, trying to get photos of her vaginal area.” Harris also reportedly told the girl "I hate being married with kids. The novelty has worn off and I have nothing to show for it."
Just prior to the alleged sexting, Harris and his son had breakfast at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, then went to his job at Home Depot, where he worked as a computer programmer. He worked his eight-hour shift while his son died in the parking lot, locked in the car.
"Harris pulled into a shopping center after leaving work and began shouting, 'What have I done? What have I done?’" Boring told the Jury, according to the Daily Mail. "His behavior was not consistent with somebody who had just discovered his child in the back seat after forgetting him... While other people were trying to help his son, he was walking around. He starts trying to call his wife, and trying to call the daycare. He doesn't call 911 and separates himself from his child. No tears."
A few hours later, Harris was arrested and charged with murder. The indictment filed against him in September 2014 listed the following charges: malice murder, felony murder, cruelty to children in the first degree, cruelty to children in the second degree, criminal attempt to commit a felony of sexual exploitation of children and dissemination of harmful material to minors.
An average of 37 children in the United States die each year from being left in a hot car, according to the website Kids and Cars. As of Oct. 4, the total number of such deaths in 2016 is 35, the site reports.