MARIETTA, Ga. – With a trial getting under way for a Georgia man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler son in a hot SUV to die, lawyers and a judge on Wednesday began asking potential jurors what they know about the case and whether they believe they can be impartial.
Justin Ross Harris, 35, faces charges including murder in the June 18, 2014, death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Police have said the boy died after spending about seven hours in the SUV on a day when Atlanta-area temperatures reached at least into the high 80s.
Prosecutors have said Harris was unhappily married, was unfaithful to his wife and was looking for an escape. Defense attorneys have said their client, who moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Georgia in 2012 to work for Home Depot, was a loving father and that the boy's death was a tragic mistake.
Potential jurors on Tuesday filled out a 17-page questionnaire that included questions about what they know about the case, which has drawn extensive local and national media attention. The first panel was brought in for individual questioning Wednesday.
Jury selection is expected to last at least into next week. The juror questionnaire noted the trial could last four to six weeks once opening statements begin.
As questioning began, the lawyers asked potential jurors about where they get their news and what specifically they know about the case. They've also focused on whether the potential jurors believe they've formed an opinion and whether they can be impartial in considering the case.
The first two potential jurors have said they want to be fair, but both also said they're leaning toward thinking Harris is guilty.
The first potential juror, a substitute teacher with four grown children and five grandchildren, said he could put aside those feelings if he heard evidence that convinced him otherwise.
The second, who works in logistics and has two young daughters, said she would do her best to listen to the evidence and apply the law. She said that what she has heard about negligence in the case really bothers her.