COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The attorney for Ross Harris -- the man who was accused of leaving his toddler in a hot car to die in 2014 -- said his client is relieved several charges against him have been dismissed. However, he won't be released from prison yet.
The Cobb County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday it would not re-try Harris' case. Cooper, who was 22 months, was left strapped into a rear-facing car seat in the back of his father's SUV on June 18, 2014. It was parked outside Harris' office building and he died.
Two years after little Cooper’s death, Harris was convicted of his murder and several other crimes relating to the toddler’s death. He was also convicted of sex crimes for sending sexually explicit communications to underage girls, which was unrelated to the murder charges. Harris was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
However, in 2022, The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the counts pertaining to murder. In a 6-3 majority, it ruled the jury “heard and saw an extensive amount of improperly admitted evidence" at the trial court level.
Now, the Cobb DA's office has decided to close the case concerning Cooper's death. Harris' attorney, Carlos Rodriguez, said his client is numb from all of the emotions, but relieved and overjoyed that this phase is concluding.
Harris won't be released from prison since he's still serving on the other counts that were not reversed by the state Supreme Court.
"So the maximum that he could serve on those charges is until June of 2026. But any time that you are representing someone charged with murder, the goal is to save them from a life in prison. And that's what's happened here," Rodriguez explained.
The attorney said he was thrilled by the prosecutors' decision to not re-try the case.
"This is the right decision. This is justice for Cooper," Rodriguez said.
The story made national headlines in 2014 when Cooper died and in the years following with the trial. Controversy surrounded the case, putting child hot car deaths in the spotlight.
"It was only, it was only controversial in the sense that the state wanted to suggest that because he was a bad husband, that he must have left his child in the car intentionally. But the reality is that just because he may be morally responsible, he's not criminally responsible because this was an accident," Rodriguez said. " And what happened to Ross happens to loving parents throughout the country every single year, throughout the year. And in fact, in the two years following Ross's trial, where the record highs for hot car deaths."
According to kidsandcars.org, there's been at least four reported hot car deaths this year in the U.S.; three of them on the website list the circumstances as the child was unknowingly left in a vehicle. The cases occurred in Florida, New York, and Alabama.
Rodriguez maintains that what happened to Cooper in Georgia nearly nine years ago was truly an accident.
"Cooper's legacy should never have been and will not be that he was the victim of a crime," he said. "And so this decision reflects the truth, but it also reflects the legacy that Cooper was loved."
In the statement from the Cobb DA's office, it said they conducted a thorough review in the last 11 months, adding that "crucial motive evidence that was admitted at the first trial in 2016 is no longer available to the state due to the majority decision of the Supreme Court," which is why prosecutors made the "difficult decision" to not re-try Harris again.
"We would like to thank the Cobb County Police Department, all current and prior DA’s Office staff, and all other agencies who worked tirelessly for years to obtain justice for Cooper," the DA's statement said. "Cooper will always be remembered by this office and those who fought for him."