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Father Freed After 10 Years in Prison for Toddler’s Hot Car Death, Convictions Overturned

A Georgia father, Justin Ross Harris, has been released from prison a decade after his toddler died in a hot car, a case that garnered international attention with prosecutors accusing him of murder.

Harris was released from Macon State Prison in the United States of America on Sunday, coinciding with Father’s Day, according to records from the Georgia Department of Corrections. He had begun his sentence on December 6, 2016.

Following his release from the prison system, Harris was taken to Cobb County Jail later that Sunday, as indicated by jail records. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that he may serve the remaining two years of his sentence in the county jail.

Harris had relocated from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to the Atlanta area in 2012 for work. On the morning of June 18, 2014, he told police that he forgot to drop off his 22-month-old son Cooper at day care and drove straight to his job as a web developer at The Home Depot. Cooper was left in the car seat of the Hyundai Tucson SUV for about seven hours outside Harris’s office in suburban Atlanta, where temperatures soared to at least the high 80s. Cooper died from the heat.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Harris was unhappy in his marriage and killed his son to gain freedom. They presented evidence of Harris’s extramarital affairs, including sexually explicit messages and graphic photos exchanged with women and girls, and meetings for sex.

In November 2016, Harris was found guilty on eight counts, including malice murder, and was sentenced to life without parole plus an additional 32 years for other crimes.

However, in June 2022, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his murder and child cruelty convictions by a 6-3 vote, citing the introduction of “extremely and unfairly prejudicial” evidence to the jury.

Prosecutors then announced that Harris would not face another trial for Cooper’s death. The Cobb County district attorney’s office expressed disagreement with the court’s decision but acknowledged that crucial evidence regarding Harris’s motive could no longer be used.

Harris’s defense team has consistently argued that he was a loving father and that Cooper’s death was a tragic accident.

While the state Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction, it upheld Harris’s convictions on three sex crimes involving a 16-year-old girl, which he had not appealed.

Harris served time for a felony conviction—attempted sexual exploitation of a minor—resulting in a 10-year prison sentence. The remaining one-year sentences pertain to misdemeanors for distributing obscene materials to minors, according to Cobb County jail records. The county jail is located in Marietta, the same county where Cooper’s death occurred.

Harris’s case attracted significant attention worldwide, sparking debates across various media. Due to extensive pretrial publicity, the trial was relocated to Brunswick on the Georgia coast to ensure a fair jury.

News Credit: abcNews

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