BRUNSWICK, Ga. — After questioning potential jurors for eight days, a judge and attorneys agreed 45 people in a final jury pool are qualified to hear the trial of a Georgia man charged with killing his toddler son by leaving the child inside a hot SUV.
Justin Ross Harris is charged with murder in the June 2014 death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Authorities say the boy died after sitting for hours in the backseat of his father’s SUV parked outside the Home Depot office were Harris worked in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County.
A first attempt at seating an impartial jury fell apart in May, when the judge agreed to move the trial because of pretrial publicity. Now Harris, 35, will be tried in the coastal city of Brunswick, 275 miles from the Atlanta suburbs.
On Wednesday night, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed a jury pool of 45 panelists had been qualified, news organizations reported.
Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark planned to hear pretrial motions Thursday before recessing court for the next week. A final jury of 12 people, plus up to four alternate jurors, is to be selected from the larger pool Oct. 3. Then Harris’ trial is to begin with opening statements from attorneys.
Though the case was moved far outside metro Atlanta, attorneys still had to work to find unbiased jurors. Many potential jurors said they had seen news stories or other accounts of the case, and some panelists were dismissed because they said they had already decided Harris is guilty.
Harris, who moved to Georgia in 2012 from Alabama, faces life in prison if he’s convicted of murder. Prosecutors say he intentionally left his son to die at a time when Harris was unhappy in his marriage and looking for relationships with other women. Defense attorneys call Cooper’s death a tragic accident.