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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hot-Car Death Witnesses Say Dad Was ‘Acting’

(CN) — On Day 3 of a highly anticipated trial, prosecutors showed pictures and videos from the crime scene as Justin Ross Harris, the father of a boy who died in a hot car, covered his face and looked away.

Harris is accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son Cooper in a hot car to die in 2014. The trial was moved from Cobb County to Glynn County in southeast Georgia.

Cobb County crime scene technician Brad Shumpert testified first on Wednesday. He said he was on the scene for about two hours and took several photos with a digital camera with a lens that can zoom in on objects.

Shumpert testified that Cooper's body was already covered with a sheet in a parking lot when he arrived on the scene. He took the sheet off and took pictures of different vantage points.

"He was wearing a little shirt that had bicycles on it," Shumpert said.

Despite smelling a urine-soaked diaper, Shumpert omitted the smell from his report.

"To me it was unremarkable," he said.

Shumpert said that Cooper had scratches on his face.

According to the photos, the temperature in the car was 95 degrees.

Images from Harris' house showed toys in the living room, a high chair at the dining table and a jogging stroller in the front hallway.

Cooper's backpack had been left at the house that day. Some light bulbs were out, explaining why Harris bought new light bulbs the day Cooper died.

Shumpert was asked to read the names of specific books on Harris' bookshelf, which included "His Needs, Her Needs," "Sacred Marriage," "Calm My Anxious Heart" and "Breaking Free."

The next witness, Artiyka Eastland, said she was eating lunch in the shopping center and discovered Harris when she went to her car. She saw Cooper on the ground.

"I saw the dad," Eastland said. "I saw him kind of just put his hands on his hair and kept saying what he had done."

Eastland said Harris appeared nervous and Cooper was "grayish-bluish" and "very sweaty." She also said she had a margarita at lunch.

When Eastland was cross-examined by defense attorney Maddox Kilgore, he pointed out that she told a detective "nothing seemed suspicious."

Another witness, Ashleigh Womack, said Harris was "pacing and screaming" and was on his cellphone. According to her testimony, a "good Samaritan" was performing CPR on Cooper. She initially thought the child was having a seizure.

"I thought it was odd that a parent wouldn't be on the ground with their child," Womack said. "I imagine I would be on the ground doing everything I can to put life back into my child."

Womack said she heard Harris saying, "What have I done? What have I done? I killed my son."

Dale Hamilton also testified that he heard Harris screaming, "What have I done?"

"He got out of the vehicle with a sense of urgency," Hamilton said, adding that Harris appeared "distraught and frustrated."

Hamilton called Harris' behavior "bad acting."

"I would have shed tears," Hamilton said. "I would not have put him on hot asphalt. I wouldn't have left him unattended."

Former Cobb County police officer Lindsey Foglia testified next, describing Cooper as a "bluish-green color" with his eyes open and mouth shut. At first, Foglia said she didn't know the child was dead.

Harris, Foglia said, was pacing away from Cooper and yelling.

"He'd go from calm to shrieking to calm," Foglia said.

She testified that Harris told her to "shut the f*ck up" before being detained.

The last witness of the day, Cobb County police officer Brett Gallimore, said that Harris was "hysterical and upset" and that "there was no consistency in the way he was acting whatsoever."

After Harris said "shut the f*ck up" to Foglia, Gallimore said he told Harris "to watch his f*cking mouth," to which Harris replied, "F*ck you." That's when Harris was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.

"I thought he was acting hysterical," Gallimore said. "Not genuine. Acting."

When he looked at Harris in the back of the patrol car, Gallimore said he "didn't see any emotion whatsoever."

During cross-examination, Kilgore noted that Gallimore never wrote that Harris did not seem genuine in his report.

Due to Hurricane Matthew approaching the east coast, Judge Mary Staley said the trial will not convene on Thursday or Friday.

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