A Georgia father serving a life sentence has had his murder conviction for the hot car death of his son overturned by the state’s highest court.
Justin Ross Harris, 41, was jailed over the 2014 death of his 22-month-old son Cooper, who was left in the backseat of the hot vehicle outside his office for seven hours.
The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction after ruling that a jury at the 2016 trial should not have been told about his conviction for sexting a 16-year-old girl.
But it upheld Harris’ convictions on three sex crimes committed against a 16-year-old girl that he had not appealed, for which he received a 12-year prison sentence.
All of the Georgia Supreme Court justices agreed that there was sufficient evidence to support Harris’ convictions in a case that made national headlines.
But in the majority opinion, Chief Justice David Nahmias wrote that much of the evidence about Harris’ sexual activities should not have been used by prosecutors and may have improperly influenced the jury.
As a result, Harris will get a re-trial on the murder and child cruelty charges he faced.
“The Supreme Court has reversed Justin Ross Harris’s convictions for murder and other crimes related to the death of his toddler son, Cooper, in a hot car, because the jury ‘heard and saw an extensive amount of improperly admitted evidence,’” the court said in a statement.
Harris told investigators that he had forgotten to drop off his son at daycare on 18 June 2014, and went to work as a web developer for Home Depot without realising he still had Cooper in the car with him.
Temperatures on the day of Cooper’s death reached the high 80s the trial heard.
Harris was convicted on eight counts including malice murder, and a judge sentenced him to life without parole as well as 32 more years in prison for other crimes.