Just five days before 22-month old Cooper Harris was left for hours in a hot car, his father, Justin Ross Harris, watched a video in which a veterinarian intentionally locks himself in a hot car, prosecutors alleged this week during Harris’ murder trial in Cooper’s death.
On June 13, prosecutors say that Harris, 35, allegedly accessed the video from a link on Reddit.
He allegedly watched the video twice, Cobb County lead detective Phil Stoddard told the jurors in court on Monday in Brunswick, Georgia. Jurors then saw the same video, in which Dr. Ernie Ward sat inside a closed vehicle and documented the sizzling temperatures.
Stoddard testified that the video had come up during Harris’s interrogation. According to the detective’s testimony, Harris referenced the video and said, “I watched that, and that would be terrible if my son was in the car.”
The prosecution maintains that Cooper’s death was intentional, but Harris’ defense attorney said the death was “a tragic accident.”
More Information on Kids and Hot Cars
The YouTube video wasn’t the only time that Harris had access to information about children in hot cars, Stoddard testified.
He said that in January 2013 — 18 months before Cooper died — Harris’ then-wife, Leanna Harris, sent him an email that said, “Don’t be this dad.” It was a link to an article about a father who left his child in a hot car.
In April 2014, roughly two months before Cooper’s death, Harris received a generic email forward from state child care officials titled “Look Again,” according to Stoddard’s testimony. The email explained how leaving an unattended child in a vehicle could result in serious injury or even death.
Then, in May 2014, Harris allegedly received another email about a 2-year-old who had died after being locked in her mother’s car, Stoddard testified.
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More Sexting Activity?
Stoddard, who has not yet been cross-examined about this testimony, also testified Monday about a series of messages Harris exchanged with various women. Many of the texts were graphic and some included pictures of Harris’s penis, he said.
In one text, Harris allegedly refers to himself as a “sex fiend.”
In another message, he allegedly wrote, “I’m addicted to sex. It’s like my drug.” In still another message, he allegedly said, “I just want to f— a lot of girls, drink a lot and have fun.”
But Stoddard also testified that some of the messages shared his family difficulties — and shined a light on his how sexual behavior may have been connected to his home life.
“Wish I was single,” Harris allegedly wrote to one woman, Stoddard said. “I settled down. Kinda regret it.” In another message, he allegedly wrote, “I love my son, but that joker just drains my paycheck.”
Stoddard said that Harris allegedly confessed that he had sex with strangers “to block out a lot of my pain.”
Earlier in the trial, a teen girl testified that Harris, 35, had sent her photos of his genitals on Whisper. “He told me he wanted me to make him a naughty old man or something along those lines,” the girl alleged.
But none of this testimony comes as a surprise to the defense. In opening statements, Harris’ attorney, Maddox Kilgore, acknowledged several “sexual sins,” but said that was no basis for Harris’ alleged crimes.
Kilgore warned jurors that they would hear about “immoral sexual behavior” and “graphic, filthy sexual talk” by his client. He even said that Harris “has earned every bit of shame that’s coming his way” for his admitted sexual improprieties.
Harris has been charged with eight felony counts, including malice murder, cruelty to children and criminal attempt to commit a felony. He faces life in prison if convicted.
The prosecution is expected to continue presenting its case throughout the week.