Justin Ross Harris' lawyers don't think that whether he was sexting an underage girl is relevant to his murder trial, where he's accused of leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car until he died.
The Georgia man's lawyers are trying to get electronic evidence thrown out in the trial, in which Harris is accused of murder and child cruelty, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But prosecutors, who also accused Harris of conducting online searches for how long it takes to die in a hot car, say not so fast: The sexts, they argue, make it clear Harris was tired of being a father and the responsibilities that come with being a husband.
Prosecutors say Harris was sexting with the underage girl on June 18, 2014, the day he left his son, Cooper, in the back seat of his Hyundai Tucson for seven hours. The outside temperature reached 92 degrees that day, while temperatures inside the car could have topped out at 130 degrees. While Cooper was dying of heat stroke, prosecutors allege, Harris was exchanging messages with the underage girl and posting on an online forum for "child free" lifestyles.
"I miss having time to myself and going out with friends," Harris allegedly wrote the day his son died, according to CNN.
The accused father reportedly became belligerent with cops at the scene of his son's death, police said. When paramedics and cops arrived, Harris was on his cellphone.
"Shut the f--- up," Harris told a cop who asked him to hang up the phone, according to a Cobb County Police Report cited by People magazine.
Harris' belligerence and refusal to cooperate are what led police to eventually cuff him and take his cellphone, prosecutors told Cobb County Superior Court, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That's when police reviewed the data on his phone, discovering the conversation with an underage girl, as well as conversations with other minors and lewd photographs sent back and forth.
His lawyers claim this was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights because police reviewed the contents of the phone without a warrant, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Using the screen name "Morgan Freeman's penis" on the social media app Whisper, Harris sent an underage girl a photo of his penis, and received a photo of the girl's genitalia she sent to him via the app, CNN reported.
"Show me more. Haha. Make me a naughty older man," the Georgia man texted the teen after learning she was 15 years old, according to court documents cited by CNN.
At trial, Harris' attorneys have maintained their client did not know the age of the girl he was chatting with. They argued that the phone was seized illegally, and the texts aren't relevant to the murder investigation, but prosecutors say the texts help shed light on the theory that Harris no longer wanted a family.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley agreed with the prosecution, the Daily Mail reported, saying the texts illustrate the accused father's frame of mind in the days before his son died.
The next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 22, and Staley told attorneys for both sides that she intends to begin the trial by February.