It’s my current belief that the State has so far failed to prove that Justin Ross Harris intended for his son to suffer or die, indeed the evidence suggests the opposite.
But what about the claim that he is guilty of criminal negligence?
The State alleges that Harris was criminally negligent, that criminal negligence caused the child to suffer ( a felony ) and in the course of that felony, the child died. Felony murder.
Standard examples of criminal negligence involve activities that are inherently dangerous, for example texting while driving a car.
The State may argue that trying to look after a child while sexting women ( a distraction ) is criminally negligent, but I think that is problematic. It’s not at all clear that Harris or any reasonable person would think it’s wrong to be texting while looking after a child. It’s a common thing to do, and there is no law against it ( the fact that some of the women were under-age doesn’t I think make any difference here, as this doesn’t make the act any more dangerous to Cooper ).
The logical consequence would be that perfectly normal activities such as listening to the radio, making a telephone call, thinking about what you are going to have for dinner, all normal activities that could distract you, while caring for a child, could be criminal negligence, punishable with a lengthy prison sentence.
I think that would be absurd. We may want to punish Harris for his failure to look after his child, but if he had not criminal intention, if he was not in the least bit aware that his actions that day were a danger to anyone, least of all his son, a guilty mind, I do not believe he should be found criminally negligent.
See also “What is “Child Cruelty” under Georgia Law?” Pate & Johnson law blog, June 2014,
and “Lawyers’ smart move in hot car death” CNN, July 2014.