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January 14, 2022



Amber Rollins, director, Kids and Car Safety, 913-205-6973

Janette Fennell, president & founder, Kids and Car Safety, 415-336-9279

Families affected by hot car incidents, memory experts and filmmakers available for interviews upon request.

Father Serving Life Sentence Appeals in Georgia Supreme Court Next Week

Was this nationally publicized case a tragic, fatal mistake or murder?


In 2014, Justin Ross Harris was supposed to drop his son off at daycare before going to work. Later that day, Harris found his 22-month-old son, Cooper Harris, dead in the back seat of his vehicle. He has been assumed guilty in the court of public opinion ever since due to misinformation presented by police, which led to a malice murder conviction and a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Next week, the Georgia state Supreme Court will hear Justin Ross Harris' appeal for a new trial.

Since 1990, Kids and Car Safety has documented over 1,000 child hot car deaths in the United States. Of those tragedies, Harris is the only individual to receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In fact, according to Kids and Car Safety, at least 52% of child hot car deaths resulted in no criminal conviction. In 41% of cases, no criminal charges were ever filed and in 11% of cases all charges were dropped. Only 31% of cases result in a conviction with varying degrees and those convicted rarely serve any jail time.

Why was this case handled so differently?

A new documentary, Fatal Distraction, from director Susan Morgan Cooper is now available on iTunes. The film focuses on the untold story of the high-profile Georgia murder trial of Justin Ross Harris. Hours after Cooper's tragic death, Mr. Harris was arrested and the Cobb County Police Department lied under oath to obtain search warrants of Harris' home. Evidence of an unrelated extramarital sex life was publicized by law enforcement and the prosecution to concoct a salacious "double life" murder motive. The press then reported this information which caused the public to judge Harris guilty before he ever saw a courtroom.

The film includes interviews with Kids and Car Safety’s president and founder, Janette Fennell, neuroscientist and memory expert, Dr. David Diamond, as well as a number of Kids and Car Safety parent advocates who have experienced the tragic loss of a child in a hot car.

Kids and Car Safety has been working tirelessly for over 25 years to prevent hot car tragedies, one of the most misunderstood issues of our time. In the overwhelming majority of hot car deaths, it was a loving, conscientious parent that was responsible. So, if hot car deaths happen with frightening regularity to loving families, the film begs the question -- was Harris guilty of a mistake or murder?

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Inspired by Gene Weingarten's Pulitzer Prize-winning article, this documentary shows "there may be no issue of human failure that more challenges our notions about crime and punishment and mercy."

Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Car Safety said, “The film sheds light on this very misunderstood and devastating issue. We hope viewers come away with a better understanding that losing awareness of a child in the back seat can literally happen to anyone, even those who adamantly believe it could never happen to them and criminalizing it will not fix the issue.”

Dr. David Diamond, a neuroscience professor at the University of South Florida has studied the science of tragic memory failures for over a decade. He has interviewed dozens of parents that have forgotten children in cars, and confirms that the Harris case is a tragedy because he was convicted due to his extramarital activity, not because he wanted to harm his child. According to Diamond, Harris’ memory failure in this case is consistent with human error, not a failure of the love Ross Harris had for his son.

“Anyone who watched the news from 2014 to 2016 would have seen the salacious coverage about Justin Ross Harris. Even though the details of his case align with hundreds of other cases.” said Director Susan Morgan Cooper. “The Cobb County Police fed lies to the media and thus Justin Ross Harris was condemned as guilty before he ever went to trial. I believe in fighting for the truth and I'm grateful to shine a light on this tragic story.”

Fatal Distraction is produced by Susan Morgan Cooper and Lara Thomas Ducey.

More information on hot car deaths can be found here.

More information on the science memory failure and hot car deaths can be found here.

Official documentary press materials can be found here and here.

Official trailer can be found here.

Watch the film on iTunes:


About Kids and Car Safety

Kids and Car Safety is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children and pets in and around vehicles. Kids and Car Safety is devoted to eliminating vehicle-related risks to children and pets through data collection, research and analysis, public education and awareness programs, policy change, product redesign and supporting families to channel their grief into positive change. Our organization has a special focus on everyday events referred to as “nontraffic incidents” which includes being run over in parking lots or driveways, hot car deaths, carbon monoxide poisoning, car theft with children/animals inside, falls, knocking cars into gear, drowning from not being able to exit a submerged vehicle, underage drivers, power window strangulation, trunk entrapment, etc.

Kids and Car Safety Website

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