Harris, 33, of Marietta, was indicted on eight charges by a Cobb grand jury as a result of the Cobb County police investigation into his 22-month-old son’s death.
A conviction of murder has three possible sentences: life in prison, life in prison without parole or the death penalty, Isaza said.
In a statement about the indictment, District Attorney Vic Reynolds alluded that further charges could come as the police continue to investigate the case.
“The evidence in the case has led us to this point …whether or not it leads us to anyone else remains to be answered,” Reynolds said.
Suspicion about the motives of Harris and his wife, Leanna Harris, grew when police discovered they had both searched the Internet for the length of time it takes for a person to die in a hot car, according to the warrants.
Lawrence Zimmerman, an Atlanta attorney representing Leanna Harris, said he thinks the district attorney was referring to his client in his statement today.
“I am surprised that the district attorney is still contemplating — after almost three months of reviewing the evidence — whether or not to charge my client, if that is who he was referring to in his press conference. By now, I would think they would have been able to make a final decision and clear her from any wrongdoing,” Zimmerman said.
Later in the day Maddox Kilgore, a Marietta attorney representing Harris, painted his client as a grieving father.
“A lot of you have asked how Ross is doing. Well, he’s doing terrible. He’s lost his son, his livelihood, his freedom. He’s basically lost everything,” Kilgore said.
In his first public statement about the case, Kilgore said Ross Harris did not intend to kill his son.
“The truth is Cooper’s death was a horrible, gut-wrenching accident. It was always an accident,” Kilgore.
Kilgore said the charges in the indictment contradict each other.
“We still don’t know what the state’s theory is,” Kilgore said.
Reynolds said he would not talk about the case before it goes to trial.
“I will not comment today on any evidentiary matters,” Reynolds said.
Kilgore detailed the charges one by one, saying the prosecution is accusing Ross Harris of two types of murder: one that implies Ross Harris meant to kill Cooper Harris and one that implies his death was an accident.
“The first count charges Ross with malice murder — that is that he intended to kill his son,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore contrasted that charge with two counts of felony murder, one he said meant Ross Harris “intended — not to kill his son — but to maliciously cause him pain” and another he said meant Ross Harris “left Cooper there with full knowledge.”
Kilgore said the prosecution needs to pick one theory, and he said he only has one defense.
“Ross doesn’t have any theories. He has the truth,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore said the truth is Cooper Harris’s death was an accident.
Ross Harris’ case will now be heard in front of a jury in Cobb Superior Court before Judge Mary Staley. Reynolds said the next step in the case is an arraignment hearing, which should be scheduled for a date in the next two or three weeks.
After the arraignment, where Ross Harris will enter his plea against the charges, Reynolds said motions can be filed in the case by either the DA or Kilgore. Reynolds said a trial date will be set after motions are filed.
Ross Harris has been in the Cobb County jail since June 18, the day his son was found dead in the back of his car. Police said Ross Harris left his son in the back of his car for seven hours that hot summer day, when temperatures reached 88 degrees, according to Dobbins Air Reserve Base’s weather service. Police have said cars can quickly heat up to temperatures above 100 degrees when left in direct sunlight.
Police said Ross Harris was at work at Home Depot, where he was an IT developer, while his son was in the car. Ross Harris told police he found his son dead in the back of his car while driving from work to meet friends at a movie theater.
Cobb police charged Ross Harris with felony murder and child cruelty the same day, and he has not left the jail since because he was denied bond at his probable cause hearing July 3.
Police began reporting some results of their investigation to the DA this week, Isaza said.
“Last time I checked, (the DA’s office) had most of the police’s investigation, but (police) were still looking into some things,” Isaza said Thursday.
Police have not finished their investigation into the toddler’s death, said Officer Michael Bowman, spokesman for the Cobb County police.
“The investigators will turn the case file over to the District Attorney’s Office when they have completed the total investigative process,” Bowman said.
One new charge Ross Harris faces, malice murder, shows intention, according to the indictment.
The indictment states Ross Harris “did unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, cause the death of Cooper Harris, a human being, by placing said Cooper Harris into a child car seat and leaving him alone in a hot motor vehicle.”
Other charges against Ross Harris include two counts of felony murder, one count of child cruelty in the first degree, one count of child cruelty in the second degree, criminal attempt to commit a felony and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors.
The charges of cruelty to children are for causing “cruel and excessive pain by leaving (Cooper Harris) in a hot motor vehicle,” according to the indictment.
The counts of dissemination of harmful material to a minor list a female under the age of 18 as the victim. During Ross Harris’ July 3 hearing, police revealed they found he had a history of exchanging nude photos with strangers, at least one of them a minor, in online chat rooms.
According to the indictment, Ross Harris sent “a photograph and visual image of a portion of the human body which depicted sexually explicit nudity,” to the minor.