The death of Cooper Harris: Murder or misdemeanor?

MARIETTA, Ga. -- There was plenty of evidence at Justin Ross Harris' probable cause hearing Thursday.

The question is: Evidence of what? An accident or a murder?

Right now, with the present charges, one could argue it's a bit of both: negligence and murder.

Meanwhile, the state is looking possibly at the death penalty, while the defense thinks it's barely a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors say Harris was a man without a conscience, by his own admission. A deceitful husband, with a smarmy appetite for sexting graphic pictures of his genitals to women, including one who was 16.

"It proves motive because he was unhappy in his marriage," asserted Cobb prosecutor Chuck Boring. "And we plan to show that he wanted to live a child-free life, where there's evidence to suggest that based on his internet searches."

Internet searches that allegedly include information about the heat-related deaths of children and reveal a ghoulish fascination with videos of people dying.

"And it shows videos of people dying is all sorts of ways," testified Cobb detective Phil Stoddard. "From suicides to Iraq, executions, those types of videos."

RELATED: Police: Cooper Harris' mom also researched hot car deaths

While little Cooper fought to survive, lashing out, scratching himself to get free, the prosecution said that Harris was busy sexting from early morning to late afternoon.

"Your Honor, this goes to negligence," said Boring. "What he's doing throughout the day instead of worrying about his kid. It also goes to motive and marital problems between he and his wife."

But defense attorney Maddox Kilgore insisted that "fantasy texting," while morally abhorrent, was evidence of nothing related to Cooper's death. And if he had intentionally killed his son, why would he have his friends drive him back to the car to drop off some light bulbs he had bought?

"He's got no idea that Cooper's in the car," said Kilgore. "Why would he take his closest friends to his crime scene?"

The defense says the tragedy was an accident that should not carry a death penalty.

"But an accident doesn't become a crime because the results were catastrophic," Kilgore implored to Judge Frank Cox. "And that's what all this is about."

The judge ruled that there was probable cause to take the case to the grand jury for indictment.

The issue of the sexting could be trouble for both sides. Some attorneys say it might not even be admissible if it can't be connected to the boy's death. But if it can, then it could also prove that Harris was distracted by it, and therefore not guilty of murder.


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