ATLANTA (CBS News) — Georgia’s highest court on Wednesday overturned the murder and child cruelty convictions against a man whose toddler son died after he left him in a hot car for hours, saying the jury saw evidence that was “extremely and unfairly prejudicial.”
Justin Ross Harris, 41, was convicted in November 2016 on eight counts, including malice murder, in the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. A judge sentenced him to life without parole, as well as 32 more years in prison for other crimes.
All of the Georgia Supreme Court justices agreed that there was sufficient evidence to support Harris’ convictions, but the majority opinion written by Chief Justice David Nahmias says that much of the evidence having to do with Harris’ sexual activities shouldn’t have been admitted and may have improperly influenced the jury. The ruling means that Harris is entitled to a new trial on the murder and child cruelty charges against him.
The high court upheld Harris’ convictions on three sex crimes committed against a 16-year-old girl that Harris had not appealed.
The Cobb County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, and a lawyer for Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
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