SUV toddler mom 'devastated' by death, lawyer says

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ATLANTA — A lawyer for a suburban Atlanta woman whose husband was arrested after their son was left for hours in a hot SUV said Tuesday that she is devastated by the boy’s death.

Criminal defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman said Leanna Harris is “living every parent’s nightmare” after the death of her 22-month-old son, Cooper.

The woman’s husband, Justin Ross Harris, 33, was arrested on charges of murder and child cruelty after the boy’s death June 18. The father told police he left his son in the backseat of his SUV for about seven hours after forgetting to drop him off at day care and going to work, investigators in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County have said.

Leanna Harris has not been charged in the case.

Zimmerman criticized media coverage of her reaction to her son’s death, saying speculation over a perceived lack of emotion in the case thus far is similar to what 1996 Olympic bombing hero Richard Jewell faced after an attack that year on the summer games in Atlanta.

Jewell led people away from a suspicious backpack before a blast killed one and left more than 100 people injured. He became the target of intense scrutiny after an unattributed news report said he was the focus of the investigation into the attack. Jewell’s name was cleared in 2006 and he died the following year at age 44.

“Newspapers, television and online media have fostered a poisonous atmosphere in which Leanna’s every word, action and emotion — or failure to cry in front of a crowd — is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning,” Zimmerman said.

He added that the media has dug into his client’s upbringing, marriage and sex life. Zimmerman also said Leanna Harris has been unable to return to work and she’s asking to be allowed to grieve her son privately.

During an hourslong probable cause hearing on July 3, prosecutors said evidence shows Justin Ross Harris had been leading a double life and was sending nude photos with several women — including at least one teenager — even on the day his son died. The couple had two life insurance policies for the toddler, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000. After his son’s death, Harris talked with relatives about what they needed to do to file claims, investigators have said.

Harris’ defense attorney Maddox Kilgore has argued that evidence in the case is insufficient and the boy’s death was a tragic accident.

Justin Ross Harris remains jailed without bond.

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Marinerman1 07/16/14 - 08:32 am
The Fishy Thing To Me

The thing that is really fishy to me is that, even if the child was small for his age, WHY was he in a REAR-FACING car seat ??!! I feel so much pity for the child. The feeling of being abandoned by his daddy, and locked in a seat that he could not free himself. Just on the evidence thus far, I'd want to juice the dad. BUT, let's put him in a seat, and leave him in the Arizona desert. We'll come back and get what's left in a month.

hoptoad 07/16/14 - 09:09 am
It took her long enough

to decide to "get devastated! This marriage seems like one sicko found another sicko. It's certainly bad enough when one or the other murders their child/children, but the other parent normally shows emotion of some sort immediately. Not when a lawyer tells you that's what people need to see.

Dixieman 07/16/14 - 12:01 pm
I know!

Let's judge her in the media!! Much more fun that way and less concern about the rules of evidence! Made for reality TV....bring it!

corgimom 07/16/14 - 07:02 pm
For all anybody knows, she

For all anybody knows, she was under sedation and in shock.

Would people like it better if she was hysterical and ripping her hair out?

Grief is a very individual thing, and there is no "right way" to grieve.

hoptoad 07/17/14 - 07:16 am
No, she should not be judged

No, she should not be judged by the media, but there is some evidence that she may have known he was going to do this.

Besides the lack of emotion, she also googled how long it would take for a child to die citing she did it because it was a worry. Why would anyone have to google that to know that it was a dangerous thing to do and that some simple precautions could be taken like placing a stuffed toy in the seat when the child was not in it and placing the stuffed toy in the front seat with you to remind you the child's seat was occupied. Or how about just because you're a parent you ALWAYS remember to double check the child's seat?

When she discovered, after googling, how long it would take for her child to die why didn't she make it a point to call the child care facility within an hour whenever her husband was in charge of taking the child to make sure he made it there? Why bother to look it up and then never take advantage of that info. She waited waaaay too long to finally call the child care facility and I don't remember reading what action she took when she learned Cooper never made it there.

She was also overheard asking her husband if he had "said too much". Really---and that statement doesn't need to be looked into and doesn't that give at least a hint that just maybe she knew what he was up to?

That's enough evidence to make the PD very suspicious.

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