A Georgia man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler in a hot SUV to die will have his trial somewhere other than Cobb County due to pretrial publicity.
According to an article posted by The News and Advance, widespread publicity from the incident has spurred a defense request to hold the trial elsewhere due to concerns the publicity of the case has caused potential jurors to form strong opinions about the case.
The judge granted the request Monday.
Justin Ross Harris, 35, faces murder charges as a result of the death of his 22-month old son, Cooper. The incident occurred June 18, 2014. Police have said the boy died after spending about seven hours in the SUV on a day when Atlanta-area temperatures reportedly reached at least into the high 80s.
About 250 potential jurors were asked to fill out a 17-page questionnaire that included questions about what they knew about the case. The lawyers and judge then questioned the jurors individually. They questioned more than 80 potential jurors, qualifying about half of them to be part of the jury pool.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley said the courtroom has not been a place of mild opinions, describing three weeks of questioning of potential jurors, the article reads.
Staley said one potential juror made the comment that Harris should rot in hell and another said he deserves the death penalty – something prosecutors aren’t seeking in the case.
“There was no immediate indication where the trial will be moved. Staley said she and the court administrator will talk to courts in other parts of Georgia about hosting the trial and will consult with the lawyers for both sides,” the article reads.
“While we’re certainly disappointed, we understand and respect the court’s ruling,” Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said in an email to The News and Advance. “Whenever and wherever this case is set for trial, the state will be ready.”
Defense attorneys argued it had become impossible to find a fair and impartial jury in Cobb County due to extensive news coverage of the case.
“Staley held a hearing Monday on a defense motion to move the trial. After a lunch break, she urged lawyers for both sides to work together to try to reach an agreement on five disputed potential jurors, and to consider the cost and logistics of moving the trial,” the article reads. “When they could not agree, Staley thanked them for their good faith effort and then granted the defense motion.”