Dad Charged With Son's Hot Car Death Could Face Death Penalty


Justin Ross Harris Had a "Whole Second Life," Detective Said

Harris and his wife had two insurance policies on their son, one worth $2,000 through Home Depot, where Harris worked, and a second policy worth $25,000 the couple took out in November 2012, Stoddard said.

Police noticed a "foul stench or odor" coming from the vehicle and hour and a half after Cooper was removed, Stoddard said, suggesting Harris would have also realized the smell.

"It smelled like decomposition, or death," Stoddard said.

When asked if thought that Harris was a flight risk, the detective said he did think Harris was a flight risk in part because "he has a whole second life."

Witnesses who testified on Harris' behalf painted him as a loving dad.

Leonard Madden, who had lunch near the parking lot where Harris pulled in after he said he realized his son was dead and in the back of his SUV, said his reaction to finding the boy was "definitely genuine."

Madden contradicted the detective's testimony that Harris never shed a tear.

"He was saying 'Oh my God, oh my God, my son is dead," Madden said. "He was crying, he was sobbing."

Another witness, James Alex Hall, Harris' coworker and friend from college, said he planned to go to the movies with his pal the day Cooper died. Nothing was unusual about Harris' behavior that day, Hall said in court.

"He said he loved his son all the time," Hall added. "He said his son was very important to him."

Hall said he, Harris and another friend had lunch that day at Publix. After eating, Hall dropped Harris off near his car so he could drop off some light bulbs he had purchased.

Harris' attorney Maddox Kilgore maintains that his client didn't look toward the backseat when he went back to his SUV, and had no idea his dead son was in the car.

"If that was the case, why in the world would he bring his colleagues right up to the car? It makes no sense at all," Kilgore said in his closing argument. "Why would he take his closest friends to a crime scene? It makes sense if you realize that he didn't know."

As for the sexting, Kilgore said the prosecution only brought that up to "publicly shame" Harris.

Harris' brother, Randy Michael Baygents Jr., a police sergeant in Alabama, was also in court to vouch for him.

"He was a loving father, he loved his son very much," Baygents said. "We went on family vacations together. He was a good dad."

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