New location set for trial of dad in toddler’s hot SUV death


ATLANTA (AP) — The trial of a Georgia man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler son in a hot SUV to die will be held in the coastal city of Brunswick following a judge’s acknowledgement of potential jurors’ knowledge of the case in a metro Atlanta county.

Superior Court Judge Mary Staley ruled last month that jury selection, including questionnaires and questioning of individual jurors, made it clear that Justin Ross Harris’ trial should move away from Cobb County where his 22-month-old son died.

Court officials announced the new location Thursday morning and expect Justin Ross Harris’ trial to begin Sept. 12.

Harris, 35, faces charges including murder for the death of his son, Cooper.

Police have said the boy died after spending about seven hours in the SUV on June 18, 2014, when Atlanta-area temperatures soared at least into the high 80s.

After three weeks of jury selection in Cobb County, Harris attorneys moved that the trial be relocated. Prosecutors and defense attorneys couldn’t agree on five disputed potential jurors, despite Staley’s urging, and she then granted the motion to move the trial.

Defense attorneys argued that extensive pretrial publicity had resulted in an “atmosphere of hostility” against their client. Prosecutors argued jurors could be found who would be impartial and dismissed the request to move the trial as a defense strategy.

Roughly 250 potential jurors filled out a 17-page questionnaire that included questions about what they knew about the case. The lawyers and judge then began questioning them individually. They questioned more than 80, qualifying about half of them to be part of the jury pool.

Many said they believed Harris was guilty. Some said they would try to put aside those thoughts and be fair and impartial, but others said it would be very hard for them to do that.