Mother in Hot Car Death Being Treated as a ‘Victim’
(ATLANTA) — The mother of a Georgia boy who died in a hot-car tragedy in June may be legally cleared in the case, her lawyer said.
Cobb County’s District Attorney sent Leanna Harris a victim impact statement, identifying her as a victim in the case of 22-month-old Cooper — and requiring her to detail how the loss has affected her.
In that document, Harris described the amount of grief the death of her son has caused as “indefinable … and that not a moment goes by when she doesn’t think about him, or what their future would have held.”
Her attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, said the statement showed that she is not suspected in Cooper’s death.
“She went from having what she believes is a beautiful, loving family to nothing,” Zimmerman said. “How would anybody deal with that? I don’t know how she stands up every day.”
Cooper died after being locked inside his father’s SUV for nearly seven hours on a 90-degree day. Justin Ross Harris, Cooper’s father, is charged with murder and child cruelty. He has pleaded not guilty.
Leanna Harris has not been charged with any crime, but prosecutors questioned her reaction on the day of her son’s passing.
“She didn’t show any emotion when we notified her of Cooper’s death,” Detective Phil Stoddard said in court last month.
In the victim impact statement, Harris wrote that she now lives “a tortured existence.”
She lost her job and is now receiving counseling for depression, she wrote.
“On that form [where] it asks relation to victim, she wrote ‘self,’” Zimmerman said. “That’s because she’s considered a victim under Georgia law, and by them sending it to her, I think they’re alluding to the fact that she really is the victim.”
She described her husband as a “wonderful father … [that] would never have knowingly allowed any harm to come to our son.”
Harris continues to stand by her husband. She sat in court during his last appearance, when he was denied bond. His trial date is still pending.
Zimmerman said it would be unusual for someone who’s labeled a victim to suddenly become a suspect. The DA’s office released a statement to ABC News, claiming that sending the statement is a standard procedure — and part of the investigation by police.
Harris honored her son on what would have been his birthday just more than one week ago, hand-crafting a memorial that read, “Happy second birthday to our buddy.”
Zimmerman was hopeful that Harris will be exonerated.
“I hope one day they’ll stand up and say they’re not going to charge her,” he said. “We don’t know when that will be, if ever, but we hope that happens.”
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