Ross Harris murder trial: Prosecution rests

- The state rested its murder case against the Cobb County father Friday after 50 witnesses and 16 days of testimony.

The last witness was a 3D expert who created an animation of Harris' SUV with a mannequin of Cooper inside. David Dustin is a technology and software expert and constructed the scans from actual crime scene photos.  The flyover presentation attempted to show just how close Cooper's car seat was to Harris' driver's seat.

The defense objected to the demonstration, saying it in no way proves what Harris saw on June 18, 2014 when he says he accidentally left his 22-month-old son in the SUV.

"Humans can't see in 360 degrees can they? You can't offer an opinion of what's in somebody's peripheral vision, can you?" Defense Attorney Carlos Rodriguez questioned.

Mr. Dustin replied "no" to both questions.

The defense began their case by talking to realtor Roger Webb who told jurors he met with Harris and his wife in February of 2014 about buying a house in East Cobb where the better school districts are. The defense had hoped to talk to Cobb County detective Shawn Murphy whose sworn statements to a magistrate judge were the bases for dozens of warrants in the case, but the judge would not allow them to ask those questions.

One of the biggest witnesses for the defense is expected to be Leanna Taylor, Cooper's mother and Harris'ex-wife.

Thursday was dominated by the jurors viewing of Harris' Hyundai Tucson, where Harris' toddler son, Cooper, died in hot temperatures. Prosecutors shipped the SUV to Glynn County so the jury could see it.

Ahead of the viewing, the judge ruled jurors would walk around Harris' SUV twice with the door open, then twice with the door closed, and finally have up to five minutes to view the vehicle. She also made it clear they would not be allowed to touch it on Thursday when they view it.

Once the trial resumed inside, defense attorneys asked for a mistrial based on the viewing. The defense said the viewing meant Harris would never get a fair trial, calling it a “disaster.”

The judge denied the motion for a mistrial. After hearing both sides, the judge ruled the SUV was evidence that they jury had the right to examine. Judge Staley Clark said because it was too big to fit in the courtroom, other provisions were made for it to be on display outside.

The state then called Angela Cornett to the stand. She told jurors Harris told her on the app Scout he was married, but said nothing about having a child.

According to Cornett, Harris said he was unhappy in his relationship and also said Harris gave her a “creepy feeling.”

“He was just interested in meeting up so I could perform sexual favors on him,” Cornett said.

Following Cornett's testimony, Detective Grimstead was called back to the stand, followed by Jim Persinger with PM Investigations Inc., whose company specializes in digital forensics.

Mr. Persinger told jurors Harris had manually deleted his Internet searches on his work computer June 6 of 2014.

He also told jurors, Harris was crafty and he believed he intentionally hid information on his computer to be deceptive.

Mr. Persinger also said Harris searched for an adult vacation for 2 with no children on June 17, the day before Cooper died.

The defense will likely start presenting its case on Monday.

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Wednesday, jurors heard more testimony from the lead detective about whether Harris did internet searched about hot car deaths. Detective Stoddard said it was Harris who first mentioned a public service announcement about leaving pets in cars. 

Wednesday was Detective Stoddard's fourth day on the stand. 

The defense grilled a second witness, Detective David Raissi, on why he thought Harris' "malicious intent" comment was odd. On cross examination, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore ask detective Raissi if he knew that Harris' brother was head of a police academy in Tuscaloosa. He also asked if he knew Harris had worked as a dispatcher, knew the Ten Codes and was college educated. 

The detective responded, "No."

Defense attorney Kilgore also asked the detective if he had participated in confirmation bias, which is a tendency to recall information in a way that fits one pre-existing beliefs.

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Tuesday, Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore forced Stoddard to admit Harris told police he had watched a recent Public Service Announcement about leaving pets in a hot car. Attorney Kilgore had Stoddard to read Harris 'exact words. 

"I watched that and I'm like that would be terrible if my son were in the car, I would hate that" Stoddard reads.

"Those words you just read, they are not the same as these words, He had recently researched through the Internet child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur, those are not the same words are they? No, sir. 

Defense attorneys also pointed out that Stoddard did not try to reach the travel agent Harris was communicating with about a family cruise that included Cooper. Attorney Maddox questioned why the detective had not reached out to the travel agent and he had no explanation. 

"Did it not fit your theory?

over the 28 months as the lead detective in the case, did he find one witness who said Harris had any malice or hatred toward Cooper? 

"No," the detective said.

"You didn't find any history of abuse or neglect did you?"

"No," the detective agreed.

"Ross also had an emotional outburst at the scene that you didn't see?" Attorney Kilgore asked.

"He was yelling and screaming, but I didn't believe it was true or sincere," Stoddard said. " There were no tears," He followed up.  

On Monday, Stoddard said that when he told Ross Harris that he would likely be charged with felony murder charges in the death of his soon Cooper, Harris responded ‘but there was no malicious intent. Prosecutors thought that was a very unusual response.

The state has said the Cobb county father was leading a double life.  Harris seemed to admit that in his own words as prosecutors read more than 30 minutes of Whisper and KIK conversations where Harris says he prefers sex with strangers, is cheating on his wife, is only married because of his son and has a sex addiction.

One of the people Harris was communicating with told him she was 14-years-old.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors showed jurors several videos of the quick drive from the Chick-fil-A, where Ross was seen on surveillance video holding his son Cooper, to the Home Depot parking lot, where Harris worked. Each time, the drive was less than five minutes.

Prosecutors seemed to imply that it was hard to believe that Harris forgot his son was in the back seat during the short ride.

Detective Stoddard said Harris argued with police about the criminal charges.

Another point that prosecutors made was that Harris neglected to tell Stoddard about his lunchtime visit the Home Depot and to his car as Cooper sat in the backseat of his hot SUV.

Testimony ended Friday with playing the police interrogation video, where Harris could be seen openly weeping when police were not in the room and asking, “What have I done?

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Trial evidence shows Harris swapped sexual text messages with a teenage girl while his toddler son was dying in his car.

The young woman who exchanged the texts with Justin Ross Harris testified Friday that he asked for a photograph of her breasts, and she sent him one in reply, on the afternoon of June 18, 2014. Harris' 22-month-old son Cooper was found dead just a few hours later in Harris' SUV.

Harris is charged with murder as well as disseminating harmful material to a minor and criminal attempt to commit sexual exploitation of a minor, offenses dealing with the sexual texts. The witness said she was 16 and 17 during the months she and Harris exchanged sexual banter and photos online.

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