“She wasn’t chosen for any specific reason,” Charron said of Staley. “The judges are assigned randomly.”
Charron said it is normal for a judge to be chosen as soon as a case is transferred to Superior Court from a lower court. After Harris July 3 probable cause and bond hearing, Chief Magistrate Judge Frank Cox transferred the case to the Superior Court.
Harris was denied bond at the hearing and has been in the Cobb jail since June 18 on felony charges of murder and child cruelty.
Maddox Kilgore, the defense attorney representing Harris, said he would not comment on the assignment of the judge to his case.
Before it can reach Staley, the case has to be heard by a grand jury in Cobb, Charron said.
“The (district attorney’s) office will decide on when to take it to grand jury,” Charron said.
Police are still investigating what happened the day Harris left his 22-month-old son in the back of his car at Home Depot while he went to work for seven hours, said Sgt. Dana Pierce, a spokesman for Cobb police.
Pierce said police had no new updates on their investigation, and they do not know when they will be done with the investigation.
After police finish gathering evidence, they will give all the information they have about the case to the district attorney’s office, said Kim Isaza, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.
Then, the district attorney will choose whether to bring the case to a grand jury.
“Our prosecutors and investigators will review the facts and the evidence that is in hand and determine what — if any — crimes the facts and evidence support,” Isaza said.
Charron said if the district attorney does decide to have a grand jury hear the case, it will happen quickly.
“We have a grand jury in Cobb County that sits continually — about one or two days a week — because we’re such a big county,” Charron said. “So, that part of the process will move pretty quickly.”
Then, if the grand jury decides there is enough evidence to charge Harris with a crime, it will give the Superior Court a true bill of indictment, which allows the court to hear the case, Charron said.
A true bill of indictment means the grand jury thought the case was worthy of a trial, Charron said.
After the grand jury’s decision, the case will be scheduled for the next open spot on Judge Staley’s calendar, Charron said.
Although Kilgore would not comment on whether he planned to ask the judge to move the trial out of Cobb County, Joel Pugh, a Marietta attorney, said that might need to happen in order for the case to be heard by an unbiased jury.
Pugh said he thinks the case will be moved out of Cobb if the media attention the case has been receiving continues until the trial date.
“The issue is where (to move the trial) because it has to be in Georgia, and this case has received national publicity,” Pugh said.
Even if the case is moved out of the county, Charron said Cobb Judge Staley will still hear the case.
Because the investigation by police is still underway, Pugh said he doesn’t anticipate any movement in the court case any time soon.
“I would be surprised if anything really happens on this case this year — other than what’s happened already,” Pugh said.