The woman who testified in the first trial against Ross Harris is reacting to the Cobb County District Attorney’s decision not to retry the case.
Janette Fennell, President of Kids and Car Safety, was called to testify in a trial regarding the death of a two-year-old who was left in a hot car by his father and died in 2014.
“Nobody could figure out how this could happen to otherwise loving, adoring parents,” said Fennell.
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During the trial, Harris argued he forgot to drop the baby off at daycare. Instead, he drove his SUV to his job at the Home Depot corporate office on Cumberland Boulevard.
At that time, two-year-old Cooper was locked inside the car at about 9:30.
Harris left for lunch with co-workers and returned to his SUV to put light bulbs in the back seat that he purchased during the lunch hour.
At about 4:15 p.m., Harris dove two miles by his account before noticing his son in the back seat. Finally, he pulled off in a shopping center parking lot and removed Cooper’s body.
Fennell said she and her team of researchers gathered data about how a father could forget about his 22-month-old son in the back of his SUV for nearly seven hours.
“It really has to do with the way our brains work, or in this case, how they let us down,” said Fennell.
She added that the government was not counting data when she began in the 90s. Since then, she has counted 44 children who have died in hot cars in Georgia. She said he was one of two children in the state the year baby Cooper died.
However, prosecutors argued this case was no accident. They pointed to surveillance video that the dad returned to his car after the lunch break and did not notice Cooper until leaving work. They said he was texting underage girls while his son was dying.
The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the conviction due to that connection. Although, they allowed the sex crimes against children charges to remain in place.
After 11 months of review, the Cobb County District Attorney announced he would not retry the case.
“This man murdered his child, and you can prove this case as I sit here now as I speak to you,” Jesse Evans, a lawyer who prosecuted the case in 2016, said.
Harris’ ex-wife’s attorney said she supports the DA’s decision.
“She always believed he never intentionally tried to hurt her child,” said Lawrence Zimmerman.
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The decision caused Fennell to reflect on her testimony.
“Everybody wants to push back against this and say there’s no way I would ever do this, and we want to believe that,” said Fennell. “Our brains can let us down, and, unfortunately, in these cases, our brains let us down in absolutely the worst moment.”
So far in 2023, four children have died in hot cars in the U.S., none of which have been in Georgia. In all of 2022, 36 children died in hot cars. Four of them were in Georgia.
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