Ross Harris has learned his fate for the murder of his 22-month-old son.
Monday afternoon, Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced Harris, convicted of murdering his son Cooper, to life in prison without parole, plus 32 years to serve consecutively. Those additional years stem from counts of child cruelty and Harris’ inappropriate sexting relationship with an underage girl.
Prosecutors agreed with the judge's decision saying it is an appropriate punishment for Harris’s crimes. Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds said it is not a case they consider a “victory” for his office; a little boy lost his life and prosecutors' only goal was to seek justice for Cooper Harris.
“This case we believe, and the jury I think spoke very strongly and convincingly, that they believe it as well, that this was not an accident. This was an absolute, intentional act,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds went on to call Harris's sentence “appropriate.”
"I really think it's the only sentence that reflects the verdict in this case. I don’t think you could have any other sentence that would be appropriate when somebody's been convicted of intentionally taking the life of a 22-month-old child; not only doing that, but doing it in such a painful, deliberate way,” said lead prosecutor Chuck Boring.
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On November 14, a jury convicted Harris, 36, in the June 2014 death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. He was found guilty on all of the eight counts he faced, including malice murder, felony murder, cruelty to children, criminal attempt to commit a felony and dissemination of harmful material to minors.
Prosecutors said Harris intentionally left his 22-month-old son Cooper in a hot car to die on June 18, 2014. Investigators said the toddler was left in his father’s SUV for seven hours.
Harris' defense attorneys argued that Harris was a loving father and that while he was responsible for the boy's death, it was a tragic accident.
Reynolds said it is difficult to say whether the trial and Harris’ sentence sent a message to the community, but he does think it has raised awareness for caregivers all over the state to take extra precautions.
“We hope and pray in this office that every parent will make sure that he or she is very careful about the circumstances of a child in a car. We know and we learned… I learned... that on occasion, accidents happen. They do, but this wasn't an accident,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds and his team made the decision early on in their investigation not to seek the death penalty in this case. He said he stands by that decision.
“Everybody involved in this case is going to remember it because of that victim. So, we’ll move on and we'll keep doing our jobs and we’ll keep seeking justice for children and victims of crime. So, in that regard we’re going to move on, but I don’t think any of us will move on or forget this,” said Boring.
Harris’ attorneys chose not to speak to the media after Monday's hearing. No official word yet on any appeals in the case.