Atlanta father Justin Ross Harris has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. In 2014, Harris left the boy in a hot, parked car for seven hours while he went to work.
The suspect had little reaction when the sentence was handed down, according to CNN.
Harris, 36, was also give a 20-year sentence from Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark on a conviction for first-degree cruelty to children and another 10 years for sexual exploitation of children, charges stemming from finding that Harris attempted to convince a minor to text him photos of her genitalia.
Harris also received one year each on two misdemeanor counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors, related to the text messages.
On June 18, 2014, Harris strapped his son into a rear-facing car seat and drove from their home in Marietta, Georgia, to a Chick-fil-A, then to The Home Depot corporate headquarters, where he worked, leaving the child in the car all day, according to testimony.
Later that afternoon Harris drove to a nearby theater to see a movie and noticed his son was still in the car. He pulled into a shopping center parking lot and pulled Cooper’s body from the SUV. He was distraught and screaming, witnesses said.
“‘I love my son and all, but we both need escapes.’ Those words were uttered 10 minutes before this defendant, with a selfish abandon and malignant heart, did exactly that,” Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring said in his closing argument.
Harris’ defense team argued the boy’s death was a tragic accident brought about by a lapse in memory. They said they intend to file a motion for a new trial.
“If this child was visible in that car, that is not a failure in memory systems,” Boring argued. “Cooper would have been visible to anyone inside that car. Flat out.”