Jury chosen in Georgia hot-car child death trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 03, 2016 11:50 AM

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A jury was seated on Monday and opening statements were set to begin in the trial of a Georgia man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler son in a hot car to die while he exchanged nude photos with women online in June 2014.

Justin Ross Harris, 35, was charged with murder after he left his 22-month-old son Cooper in a locked SUV outside his workplace in suburban Atlanta for seven hours on a sweltering day.

Prosecutors say Harris, who was married at the time, wanted a child-free life. Harris' defense attorneys say the death was a tragic accident after the father forgot to bring his son to daycare.

Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected Monday morning in Brunswick, Georgia, 300 miles from where the incident occurred. Judge Mary Staley Clark moved the trial after the first attempt to seat a panel in the case failed following three weeks of jury selection last spring.

The judge concluded that Harris could not get a fair trial in the same community where his son died.

The trial is expected to take at least a month, with opening statements starting on Monday. Jurors will not be sequestered.

Harris also faces charges of sexual exploitation of minors for text messages he is accused of sending to underage women. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Both sides are expected to call dozens of witnesses. Leanna Taylor, Cooper’s mother and Harris’ ex-wife, is expected to be a key witness for the defense. She has told several media outlets that she believes her former husband is innocent.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)