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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Jurors to See SUV |In Which Child Died

(CN) — Jurors in the hot car death trial will be able to view the SUV a toddler died in on Thursday morning.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark decided Wednesday the jurors will be permitted to circle the SUV twice with the doors closed and twice with the doors open.

They will be allowed to examine the vehicle for up to five minutes, but they will be barred from touching or sitting inside the vehicle.

Wednesday morning saw the end of the tense cross-examination of Phil Stoddard, the case's lead detective.

Stoddard testified that Harris's former wife Leanna Taylor was not deemed a suspect in the case after detectives seized her laptop, which had more than 30,000 pictures of their son, Cooper.

"We did not find any evidence to rise to the part of probable cause to arrest Leanna Harris," Stoddard said, though he initially perceived her stoic demeanor to be suspicious.

"You were looking for a conspiracy, weren't you?" lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore asked at the end of the cross-examination.

Stoddard, who had been on the stand since Friday, said Harris only began showing emotion when he found out he was being arrested, and he complained about the conditions in his Cobb County Jail cell.

The next witness, Cobb County Police Department Detective David Raissi, testified that he began recording Harris after hearing his reaction to finding out he was being charged with child cruelty and murder.

Harris raised a red flag in Raissi's mind when he said the phrase "malicious intent."

"He began debating why he was being charged with a crime," Raissi said, later adding, "I thought it was strange that he was using that terminology."

Kilgore said that Harris has a brother who is a police officer in Alabama as a reason why he would have been familiar with the terminology.

But Raissi responded that Alabama does not use the terms malice or malicious intent in its laws.

Walter Pineda, an expert in video analysis, testified next. He enhanced surveillance video of the office parking lot where Harris left Cooper for seven hours on June 18, 2014. The defense said the enhanced footage showed Harris's head was not inside of his car when he returned to throw in light bulbs he had purchased during his lunch break.

Detective Carey Grimstead was brought back to the stand to explain how he placed the car seat back in the correct position in the SUV. He showed the jury photos of the vehicle with the car seat inside. A life sized doll was used to depict the child.

The defense argued that the car seat had been taken in and out of the car so many times during the investigation that the measurements could have changed.

The trial will resume on Thursday after jurors see the SUV in the morning.

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