BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Day seven of jury selection in the Ross Harris murder trial is underway in south Georgia and two jurors have been dismissed because of their age.
The 35-year-old Cobb County man is charged with murder, accused of leaving his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in a hot car to die back in June 2014. He returned to court Tuesday for a seventh day of jury selection.
Georgia law allows residents over age 70 to be exempt from jury duty. Two of the jurors in a panel of 12 jurors Tuesday were not aware of that. Both opted to be dismissed from jury duty when they learned of the law.
Jury selection started to make significant progress toward the end of last week as potential jurors were moved on to the next round in the jury selection process. A total of 29 potential jurors have been asked to return to the courthouse October 3. Judge Mary Staley Clark said they will need between 42 and 45 potential jurors in the pool before lawyers can select the final jury.
Week one of jury selection was uncomfortable for some potential jurors, with one even indicating being nervous in court, as they were asked a number of questions. At times, Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore got personal, with questions such as “have you ever been cheated on?” The defense also wanted to know if potential jurors were familiar with the hit Netflix docu-series Making a Murderer or TV classic Law and Order.
The potential jurors were asked a series of questions about their own criminal record and if their experiences with the law would influence their ability to come to a fair decision. Some indicated that they have felt like they have been mistreated by the criminal justice system in the past. Attorney Kilgore said he would privately speak with those people for confidentiality purposes.
Attorneys have also asked potential jurors whether they looked at pornography online or if they had ever been responsible for taking a child to or from daycare.
Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore asked a serious of questions regarding potential jurors' familiarity with car seats and forgetful behavior. Some of the questions included, “did you do any research before buying a car seat” and, “do you know anyone who has ever forgotten their purse in the backseat of their car?”
Friday, lawyers spent the day interviewing a third panel of Glynn county jurors. That panel included a law school graduate, a retired school teacher and a draftsman at an architectural firm.
The Ross Harris murder case originally was supposed to go to trial in Cobb County in April of this year, but after three weeks of jury selection, the judge approved the defense's request to move the trial out of the county because of pretrial publicity, eventually settling on the coastal city of Brunswick.
Prosecutors believe Harris intentionally left his son to die at a time when Harris was unhappy in his marriage and looking for relationships with other women. Defense attorneys say the death was a tragic accident.
Despite the long-distance relocation of the trial, nearly 300 miles from Cobb County, most potential jurors questioned by the judge said they not only had heard about the case against Harris, but had also formed opinions about his guilt or innocence.
Just over 300 jurors reported to court last Monday and, so far, more than 70 have been dismissed.
Those who will remain in the pool for possible inclusion on the final jury include a father-to-be who said he expects his child to be born this week, a man whose daughter is getting married this weekend in Virginia, and a doctor who works in the emergency room of a rural hospital that typically has just one physician working every 12-hour shift.
The judge granted each of those possible jurors time to attend to affairs away from the courthouse. But they were all ordered to return before a final jury gets seated.