MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man convicted of murder after his toddler son died in a hot SUV has been sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors last month convicted Justin Ross Harris of malice murder and other charges in the June 2014 death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. The malice murder conviction means they believed Harris left the young boy to die on purpose.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced the 36-year-old Harris at a hearing Monday.
“In violation and dereliction of duty to that child, if not love of that child, callously walked away and left that child in a hot car, in June, in Georgia,” Staley Clark said.
Prosecutors said at trial that Harris intentionally killed his son to escape the responsibilities of family life.
“I don’t think you could have any other sentence that would be considered appropriate when you have someone who has been convicted of taking the life of a 22-month-old child. Not only doing that, but doing it in such a painful, deliberate way,” said prosecutor Chuck Boring
Defense attorneys said the boy’s death was an accident and say they will appeal his conviction within 30 days.
Local legal analysts say this case could impact the way other hot car deaths are treated going forward.
“Yes, it can, but it has to be a type of case similar to this, where there is sufficient evidence to show this wasn’t by accident,” said Birmingham attorney Raymond Johnson.
Harris moved from Alabama to Georgia for work in 2012.