June 23, 2022
Amber Rollins, director, Kids and Car Safety, 913-205-6973
Janette Fennell, president and founder, Kids and Car Safety, 415-336-9279
Hot car death murder conviction overturned
by Georgia Supreme Court
Yesterday, Georgia's highest court overturned the murder conviction of Justin Ross Harris, the Atlanta father sentenced to life without parole for the 2014 hot car death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Justin Ross Harris, 41, left his son in his car and was convicted of malice murder, cruelty to children and criminal attempt to commit a felony in 2016.

The court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that Harris did not receive a fair trial because days of testimony detailing his extramarital sexual relationships that should not have been allowed. In his argument, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice David E. Nahmias argued the use of "extensive evidence about Appellant’s extramarital sexual relationships" in court was "needlessly cumulative and prejudicial." Investigators "cherry picked the mountain of electronic data to support the conclusion that (Harris) murdered his son, ignoring contrary evidence," the brief says.

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 documentary, Fatal Distraction, by director Susan Morgan Cooper is available on most streaming services. 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 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. This documentary provides a great deal of information about this case that you might not have known about.

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?

Mr. Harris has spent the last eight years of his life in prison. He has not seen the outside of jail since the day his son died.

With this announcement, will there be justice for Justin?

Kids and Car Safety is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping young children and pets safe in and around vehicles.