Justin Ross Harris: The Defense Begins

The defense began their case last week and it would appear that there are several inconsistencies that they are focusing on.  Maddox Kilgore got his opportunity to question lead detective Phil Stoddard about many of the bombshell allegations he made during the July 2014 Probable Cause Hearing:

Refuting Stoddard’s claim that Harris Googled the phrase “how long it takes a dog to die in a car,” lead defense attorney Maddox Kilgore said the veteran investigator knew it wasn’t true but swore under oath that it was.

Stoddard accused Harris of visiting a “child-free” website less than two months before his son’s death; this initially was introduced by the prosecution as evidence of a motive.

Boring didn’t mention the child-free site during his opening statement, suggesting the state had backed off one of its most explosive claims. But last week one of Harris’ co-workers, called by the prosecution, revealed he had directed Harris to that subreddit as a joke. Harris had not sought out the group, as implied by Stoddard.

“It was made up by the Cobb police department,” Kilgore said in his opening statement earlier this month.

Stoddard’s claim that Harris showed no emotion after his son’s death was among the potential contradictions that were addressed.

“That’s just not true,” Kilgore said in his opening, which included dashboard cam footage of Harris wailing in the parking lot of Akers Mill Square just moments after he said he found Cooper’s lifeless body.

On Friday, the state showed police video of Harris before, during and after he’s interviewed by Stoddard. He is calm and somewhat chatty during the interview. While alone, he can be seen alternately pacing, wailing and taking deep, sustained breaths.

Whether the grief is real or manufactured is a call the jurors will have to make. Kilgore has already said Stoddard presented an incomplete account of Harris’ behavior that day.

Stoddard was also grilled on his claim that the “stench of death” emanated from Harris’ SUV. The implication being that Harris knew his son was dead but ignored the smell.

Two other Cobb police officers testified they also smelled an odor they associated with decomposition. But neither made note of the stench until they filed supplemental reports about a year later after consulting with Stoddard.

Cobb’s former chief medical examiner previously testified that Cooper had not been dead long enough for there to be a smell of decomposition. Instead, there would have been a stale smell mixed with urine.

Stoddard has walked back one incriminating claim at a pre-trial hearing in August, though not by choice. Stoddard had testified that, when he returned to his car at lunchtime on the day he left Cooper strapped inside, Harris was “all the way inside the frame. … He’s in there. He has a clear view.” If true, Harris must have known at the time that his dead son was inside the car.

But surveillance footage from the Home Depot Treehouse parking lot, where Harris worked, showed that he could not have looked inside the SUV because his eyes remained above the roof line. At the August hearing Stoddard acknowledged that Harris’ head “was above the car.”

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