Ross Harris is responsible for his son Cooper’s death, and he’s also earned every bit of shame for his “nasty, filthy” sexual promiscuity, his lawyer told jurors Tuesday.
But the death of Cooper Harris was not a crime but an accident, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore said during a powerful and emotional opening statement. As Kilgore spoke to jurors, Harris repeatedly wiped tears from his eyes.
“Ross’s sex life, no matter how perverse and nasty and wrong … doesn’t have a thing to do with the fact he forgot that little boy,” he said.
Kilgore’s opening marks the first time he’s been able to try and convince jurors that Harris is not guilty of the murder of his 22-month-old son Cooper on June 18, 2014, when he left his son in his hot car to die.
Justin Ross Harris becomes emotional during the opening statement by his lawyer Maddox Kilgore at Harris’ murder trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday, Oct. 4, 2016. (screen capture via WSBTV)
Harris faces eight criminal counts, including two different types of murder charges. Lead Cobb County prosecutor Chuck Boring on Monday said there is “no doubt” that Harris intentionally killed his son.
On Tuesday, Kilgore owned up to most all of Harris’ reckless sexual behavior and the fact that his actions resulted in Cooper’s death.
“Ross Harris is responsible for his child’s death,” Kilgore said. “Ross is responsible. It’s his fault. There’s no doubt about that.”
Said Kilgore, “You’re going to hear a lot of really bad things about Ross Harris. He’s earned every bit of shame that’s coming his way.”
There will be “all kinds of nasty Internet chats,” stories of “infidelity and adultery” and “embarrassing and graphic sexual matters,” Kilgore said. But that had nothing to do with Cooper’s death, the lawyer said.
Even though prosecutors contend Harris misled investigators, trying to get them to believe it was an accident, Kilgore rejected that entirely.
When Harris first realized he’d left Cooper in his car that day, when he saw Cooper in his car seat while driving to an afternoon movie, “he knew his child was dead,” Kilgore said.
When he pulled into a shopping mall parking lot, Harris tried to administer CPR, but he was “too overwhelmed and couldn’t concentrate.”
Harris never blamed anyone but himself, including when officers first arrived at the scene, the lawyer said.
Kilgore showed jurors a police camera video of Harris screaming when officers arrived at the scene. The video brought tears to Harris’ eyes at the defense table. So did another video Kilgore played, showing Harris wailing and crying sitting at a table in an interview room at the Cobb County police station.
Kilgore let jurors know what Harris could be heard wailing, upon his discovery his son was dead.
“Oh, my God, what have I done?” Harris said. “I killed my son. I’m so sorry Cooper. I’m so sorry.”
While Harris accepted responsibility for what he’d done, “responsibility isn’t the same thing as criminal,” Kilgore said. “Ross loved that little boy more than anything.”