Prosecutor in Ross Harris trial says he strongly disagrees with murder conviction being overturned

·3 min read

A prosecutor who helped secure a murder conviction against a Georgia father accused of leaving his son in a hot car to die said he strongly disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the murder conviction.

Ross Harris was convicted of murdering his 22-month-old son Cooper by leaving him in a hot car for hours in Cobb County in 2014.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction, saying that evidence introduced at the trial about Ross’ sexual crimes may have swayed the jury when it came to his son’s death.

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Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne talked to Jesse Evans, who in 2016 was the ranking member of the three-prosecutor Cobb County District Attorney’s team that secured convictions against Harris.

Evans also helped secure convictions against Harris for sex offenses involving a teenage girl that emerged in the course of the investigation.

“While we respect the Supreme Court’s decision, we strongly disagree with the decision and the rationale, as did some of the dissenting justices as well,” Evans said. “At this point, we just sincerely hope that the Cobb District Attorney’s office will continue to seek justice for Cooper.”

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The state Supreme Court’s decision seems to suggest that the sex evidence at the trial painted Harris in such a bad light that it may have unfairly affected the murder part of the case.

“One of the hardest things as a prosecutor is you follow the evidence where it take you, and sometimes the evidence just takes you in unexpected places,” Evans said. “What we do as prosecutors and practitioners is just make sure that we put our best foot forward, try to present the evidence that we find, and hope and pray that justice will be served.

The state’s theory was that Harris intentionally abandoned Cooper to die a slow and painful death so he could be free to further sexual relationships with woman he met online. The defense’s argument was that Harris was a loving father who had never mistreated Cooper, but tragically forgot that he had not dropped the child off at day care on that particular morning.

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Evans, who is currently the chief assistant district attorney in Paulding County, said he’s investigated and prosecuted hundreds of homicides and cold cases in his nearly 22-year prosecutorial career.

“That poor child being left and killed the way that he was, considering the totality of the evidence, we were all motivated as a team just to get the justice that little boy deserved,” Evans said.

The Georgia Supreme Court decision seems to hinge on whether evidence that showed that Harris was a pervert or a sexual predator could have affected the counts against him involving Cooper’s death.

The Georgia Supreme Court decided to overturn the murder conviction 6-3. Evans said three of the judges strongly dissented in the decision, and that even the majority opinion said the trial evidence was legally sufficient to support Harris’ convictions for the crimes against Cooper, though it did say properly admitted evidence that Harris maliciously and intentionally left Cooper to die was far from overwhelming.