The hot-car death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris was heartbreakingly familiar. His father's unusual murder conviction has now been thrown out
Updated 12:50 PM ET, Sat July 2, 2022
(CNN)On the final morning of his short life, 22-month-old Cooper Harris was up early, at 5:15, an hour before sunrise in the Atlanta suburb where he lived with his parents.
His father, Justin Ross Harris, a 33-year-old web developer, brought the still-groggy toddler into the bed he shared with Leanna Taylor, his wife of eight years. Just under three feet tall, with wisps of blond hair framing his cherubic face, Cooper snuggled with mom and dad -- and nodded out again.
Before the sun rose over the Cobb County city of Marietta that morning on June 18, 2014, Harris had already sent or exchanged online messages -- some sexual in nature -- with at least four young women, one of them 17.
At 9:26 a.m., after a leisurely "daddy/son breakfast" at Chick-fil-A -- his son's belly "full of sausage biscuit," in the words of Cooper's mom -- Harris closed the door of his Hyundai Tucson SUV.
Carrying a Chick-fil-A cup and his work bag, Harris walked to his cubicle at the Home Depot offices, leaving Cooper -- who he was supposed to drop off at a day care center as usual that morning -- strapped in a rear-facing car seat for the next seven hours.
This detailed recounting of Cooper's last hours and his father's actions that day are gleaned from a June 22 Georgia Supreme Court ruling, which meticulously chronicled the evidence presented at Harris' murder trial in its decision to overturn his conviction for deliberately leaving his son to die of hyperthermia in the hot SUV.
The ruling came in a month in which at least five heat-related car deaths involving children were reported in the United Sates, according to the NoHeatStroke.org data website, as temperatures soared and parts of the country endured heat waves.
These nightmarish cases often draw national attention. But they rarely lead to murder charges from prosecutors who must weigh the intent of grieving parents who insist they simply forgot leaving their child in a hot car.