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Mother lists herself as a victim in Georgia hot car death

By Kevin Conlon, CNN
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Sun August 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lawyer shares victim impact statement in hot car death case
  • Leanna Harris laments "rush to judgment" over her son's death
  • Justin Ross Harris is charged with murder and child cruelty charges

(CNN) -- The mother of a Georgia toddler who died after being left in a car for hours in the sweltering heat says she is a grieving mother caught up in "the storm around my family."

"The rush to judgment by the public and the mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society," Leanna Harris wrote in a victim impact statement obtained by CNN's Victor Blackwell.

Police say Harris' husband, Justin Ross Harris, left 22-month-old Cooper strapped into a car seat in his SUV for seven hours while he went to work on June 18.

Records show the temperature topped 92 that day, and police say it was 88 degrees when the boy was pronounced dead in a parking lot not far from his father's workplace.

Justin Ross Harris has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and child cruelty.

Leanna Harris has not been charged, but her attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, said Friday that "she is concerned that the district attorney's office may try to level a charge against her."

Police said Harris behaved strangely in the days before and moments after the death of her son.

For example, one detective testified that she asked her husband, "Did you say too much?" in a police interview room after he was arrested, and that she also insisted to employees at her son's day care that "Ross must have left him in the car," when they told her Cooper had not been dropped off that morning. Police also said both parents conducted Internet searches about how hot a car needed to be to kill a child.

Zimmerman, however, wants the world to know his client is suffering.

The Atlanta defense attorney provided the victim impact statement that was filled out by Leanna Harris, "with help from my attorney," she wrote.

The form, which lists Justin Ross Harris as the defendant and cruelty to children and second degree murder as the charges, asks the person filling it out to state their relationship to the victim of the particular crime.

Leanna Harris wrote, "self," not the name of her son.

"Sure, she's a victim," Zimmerman said. "She's lost a child. She's a victim of public perception thinking that she had something to do with it."

The Cobb County District Attorney's Office said the forms are standard practice.

"We are required by the Crime Victim's Bill of Rights to send those forms to all victims or a victim's next of kin," said Kim Isaza, spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney's Office.

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