Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

CHILD KILLED IN HOT CAR ; Ex-Wife Says Father Loved Deceased Son Prosecutors Say Man Killed Son on Purpose by Leaving Him in Back of Car All Day

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

CHILD KILLED IN HOT CAR ; Ex-Wife Says Father Loved Deceased Son Prosecutors Say Man Killed Son on Purpose by Leaving Him in Back of Car All Day

Article excerpt

Leanna Taylor told a jury she tried to be strong for Justin Ross Harris after learning on June 18, 2014, that their only child was dead after Harris left the boy in his car's back seat all day after driving to his job in metro Atlanta. "I knew he was never going to forgive himself, Taylor testified, adding that she knew Harris didn't leave their son intentionally.

Her testimony as a defense witness for Harris, 35, contradicts the case prosecutors have spent weeks trying to build: that Harris meant to kill his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Prosecutors say Harris, who is charged with malice murder and felony murder, wanted to escape the responsibilities of family life as he spent his time seeking sexual relationships both online and in person with women outside his marriage.

Taylor, who divorced Harris earlier this year and went back to using her maiden name, acknowledged they had problems in their marriage dealing with sex. He had told her years earlier he frequently watched pornography and they sought counseling. She also had caught him sending text messages to other women, but testified she did not know he was meeting some of them for sex.

"If I had, I would have divorced him then, she said.

But Taylor also testified Harris was an equal and enthusiastic partner when it came to parenthood. He helped change Cooper's diapers, prepared his meals and would bathe the child. In the mornings, she said, Cooper and his father would sit together in bed watching cartoons.

"He wanted to be the one to push him on a swing. He wanted to be the one to slide down the slide with him, Taylor said of her ex- husband. "He wanted to enjoy every second he could with him.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Chuck Boring pressed Taylor on how well she really knew her husband. Evidence has shown Harris sent sexual text messages to a teenage girl and met a prostitute for sex.

"He was caught up in a double life up until and on the day of Cooper's death and you didn't know, Boring said.

"I would agree that I did not know the depth, Taylor replied. …

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