(ATLANTA) — At the same time Justin Ross Harris was being accused of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son Cooper in a hot car to die in June 2014 and charged with murder, the case was also being splashed across headlines and consumed much of the news.
Now, a judge is in search of 12 impartial jurors for a second time.
The proceedings are now taking place 275 miles away from the incident in Atlanta after a Cobb County judge granted Harris’ request for a change in venue, saying that jurors were too biased against Harris due to the publicity.
Three-fourths of the jurors polled so far this week said they have heard of the case and half said they have an opinion.
Judge Mary E. Staley said, “To say that the jury questionnaires show a pervasive knowledge and extreme opinions that are negative to the defendant is an understatement.”
Harris, 35, pleaded not guilty and maintains that this was a tragic accident. He claims that he is like dozens of other parents this year alone who simply forgot that their children were still inside their vehicles.
Witnesses have said Harris seemed genuinely upset when he discovered the child at the end of his work day.
Prosecutors say Harris wanted a child-free life to pursue extra-marital affairs. They cited lewd text messages sent from his phone while at his office the day of his toddler’s death.
Harris’s ex-wife Leanna filed for divorce earlier this year but her attorney Lawrence Zimmerman said she does not think Harris is a murderer.
“It’s important for her and Cooper’s memory that his father didn’t intentionally harm him, that this was an accident and that his father and his mother loved him immensely,” said Zimmerman.
Harris’ attorneys hope to find an impartial jury because if he is convicted, he could face life in prison.
Jury selection is expected to last two weeks and the trial proceedings are scheduled to begin Oct. 3.
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