commentary by Patrick H. Moore

cuppIn one of his satirical moments, the iconoclastic rock star Frank Zappa sang: “America drinks and goes home.” My sense is that he was primarily referring to what is now known as Mid-America’s (known in the 1970s as The Silent Majority) penchant for getting looped at parties and events and going home and passing out. There’s no doubt that Zappa’s vision was as dark as his guitar playing was brilliant, but I’m not aware of him ever alluding in one of his songs to actually “whacking the kid”, especially not by leaving the poor child to die of hyperthermia in a torrid SUV.

cupp5At Ross Harris’s hearing on Thursday, the prosecution describes him as having two sides: the churchgoing family man on the one hand, and the conniving killer on the other who researched death by hyperthermia in cars online, and then went ahead and executed his 22-month-old son Cooper by leaving him strapped into his car seat for seven long, agonizing hours of a broiling Atlanta day.



When the prosecution first announced it was charging Ross Harris with felony murder, people were outraged and a petition asking Cobb County to drop the charges quickly gained tremendous traction. Now, however, as the prosecution has divulged a potpourri of forensic and circumstantial evidence, public sentiment has turned decisively against Ross and people are out for blood. The fact that a policeman’s testimony vividly described the boy’s painful death also helped to swing public sentiment against Ross Harris: “the little boy had desperately struggled to free himself from the car seat inside the hot SUV. Scratch marks on the boy’s face and abrasions on the back of his head are signs of a frantic effort to get out of the seat. Search warrants released the next day stated that the belts were at the tightest setting.”

Here are a few representative comments from the All Things Crime Blog Facebook page in which folks practically scream for vengeance:

cupp4“Bullshit….no accident, this man and his sorry pos wife deserve to be strapped inside a blistering hot car until they fry as their poor son was made to do. 22 month olds are not quiet; he took him to breakfast and went back to his car at lunch, not to drop off lightbulbs, but to check on the murder progression. They deserve to die. Cooper deserves justice. I’m hoping this isn’t another Casey Anthony case where a murderer walks.”

“I can’t image what that sweet little angel went through my heart breaks with every new piece of evidences that comes out I hope he rots in hell for what he has done.”

“All signs point to premeditated murder. I hope they both fry.”

Now as we all know, Facebook folks often express themselves with great vehemence, but for every person who “lets it all hang out”, like commenting on a criminal case is an extreme sport, there are probably ten folks who quietly believe Ross is guilty and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

cupp7And now that Ross’s “goose is in the process of being cooked”, public sentiment, to some degree, is beginning to turn against his wife, Leanna Harris, who has reportedly made a number of comments that leave people scratching their heads and wondering if she might not have been in on the evil scheme (Please note: I’m not certain there was an evil scheme and like ATCB contributor, Starks Shrink, I would caution that the jury, not the media and the public, should decide whether to acquit or convict.

Christian Boone of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes:

Based on her own, sometimes confounding words, along with evidence disclosed at her spouse’s probable cause hearing Thursday, many are wondering whether there’s another side to Leanna Harris.

cupp8The 30-year-old dietitian, who two years ago moved to Georgia from Tuscaloosa, Ala., has not been charged with any crime. But police have disclosed that, like her husband, she had researched children dying in hot vehicles prior to her son Cooper’s death, telling officers it was her “worst fear.”

Investigators described her behavior the day of her son Cooper’s death as odd, if not suspicious.

When informed by workers at her son’s day care facility that Cooper had never been dropped off, she calmly responded, “Ross must have left him in the car. There’s no other explanation,” according to Cobb County Police Det. Phil Stoddard’s testimony Thursday.

According to Det. Stoddard, when Leanna was reunited with her husband at police headquarters after he had been charged with murder, she asked him, “Did you say too much?”

Criminal defense lawyer Esther Panitch chimes in with: “There isn’t enough to make her a co-conspirator … yet.”

cupp3In America, if you’re child dies tragically (especially under arguably suspicious circumstances), you apparently have an obligation to “beat your breast” and howl in agony, which is precisely what Leanna Harris has not done. Rather, she has comported herself with marked stoicism.

Christian Boone writes:

At Thursday’s hearing, she stared blankly ahead, chewing gum as prosecutors delivered one bombshell after another.

When she called home June 18 with the grim news of Cooper’s death, her mother could be overheard on the phone: “Why aren’t you crying? Why aren’t you reacting?”

Her response, according to Stoddard: “I must be in shock.”

cupp11And then, of course, there was Leanna’s eulogy at Cooper’s funeral last Saturday in Tuscaloosa which has raised eyebrows among those that don’t know her based on her saying that she wouldn’t bring her son back even if she could.

“He’s in the most peaceful, wonderful place there is,” Leanna Harris said.

Let’s hope so…

The 250 mourners at the service, however, gave her two rounds of applause, and it needs to be pointed out that Harris’ statement is by no means extraordinary among those who believe the afterlife is God’s greatest gift.

Personally, I’m holding out for reincarnation. In the next life I plan on being either a judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, or possibly even a stealthy and cunning criminal. But that’s still down the road apiece… But don’t worry, folks; I’ll get it right next time…

cupp9The bottom line, however, according to veteran legal observers is that police are looking at Leanna Harris’ potential culpability in her son’s death. Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds has stated that the investigation continues and “much work remains,” which certainly sounds ominous if your name is Leanna Harris.

Esther Panitch explains: “Knowledge of a crime isn’t prosecutable. A cover-up is.” Panitch, for one believes that Leanna “needs to make a deal before the state finds more evidence against her.”

In her eulogy, Leanna made statement that support her contention that Cooper is now “in a better place.”

“Some of you might wonder how I’m standing here today and I ask myself the same question. I should be crumpled into a pile of tears and snot on the ground. (The Lord) is standing behind me, holding me up.”

She then spoke about the difficulties she encountered during her awkward teen years:

“Junior high and senior high — they weren’t the happiest times (for me). He won’t have to suffer through the death of his (grandparents). He won’t have to suffer through the death of me and Ross.”

cupp4To me, Leanna statements simply sound like the remarks of a severely depressed woman.

The irony built into this case is that fact that even though Leanna has remained loyal to Ross up to this point, and stated at the eulogy, “Ross is and was a wonderful father,” under Georgia law, the spousal privilege shielding a wife from testifying against her husband, and vice-versa, doesn’t apply in cases of domestic violence or the death of a child.

* * * * *

Whatever her knowledge of Ross’s activities and/or motives may or may not be, and notwithstanding her stoicism throughout this ordeal, Leanna Harris is facing some very tough choices. Or as The Band once sang:

cupp2Save yourself
Or save your brother
Looks like it’s one or the other
Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in.

Click here to view Starks Shrink’s previous post on the Cooper Harris hyperthermia death:

The Overheating Death of Cooper Harris: Murder or Tragic Accident?


20 Responses to Cooper Harris’s Mother Leanna May Also Face Criminal Charges in Car Seat Death

  1. Karen Hackett says:

    She needs to make a deal. And quick. Public opinion will b harsher on the mother, no matter that she was less involved (if at all). Ppl can react weirdly when bereaved but exclaiming “did u say too much?” Smacks of panic at being found out rather than stoicism. When I first heard of this case I remember being in disbelief that anyone could forget a baby was left in a car for so long. Sadly I’m not surprised to see, as far as the father was concerned at least, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Hi Karen, Nice to hear from you. I agree that the situation looks very dicey for Leanna. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  2. Scatter says:

    The next “Trial Of The Century” is at hand.

  3. Starks Shrink says:

    You made a good point, Patrick. Her comments seem like that of a very depressed woman. When depression takes hold, people often reflect on all the things in their lives that made them unhappy, so perhaps that is why she tried to console herself with the thought that Cooper would never have to endure those difficult times. After all, how does one console themselves when one’s child is dead and one’s husband is in jail accused of murdering the child?

  4. Starks Shrink says:

    I stand by my original assessment that not enough is known to “convict” these parents in the media. Frankly, I think that the media was responsible for the shift in public opinion about the father, and they did so for nothing more than ratings. It’s reprehensible how these parents are being crucified in the tabloid media. Even if charges are dropped or Harris is found innocent, the media has made him guilty and he will always carry that with him.

    • liselasalle says:

      I totally agree about the media and even if I have an interest in the case, I would gladly not read about it so that defendants are not thrown to the wolves.

      • Starks Shrink says:

        I honestly think that I would be the perfect juror, because I’ve not made up my mind about anything that’s been presented. However, most attorneys would throw a shrink off the panel in a heartbeat.

        • liselasalle says:

          You would never be allowed to serve. So many people manage to avoid jury duty that it is no surprise that we end up with ridiculous verdicts on a regular basis.

          • Starks Shrink says:

            I’ve heard the argument that only the stupid serve because intelligent people get out of it. I hope that is not the case.

  5. lise Lasalle says:

    Let’s say that the jury pool is very limited. Maybe not stupid but you risk coercion or ending up with people not sophisticated enough to grasp some of the instructions or evidence.

  6. Chris says:

    Although there does seem to be some extremely hinky things about this case, I would hate to see this mother convicted — either in the court of public opinion or in actual fact — based on her words or actions following the death of her child. Having dealt with my own share of grief, I know that my emotions were all over the place, and often seemed to be lacking altogether. This brings to mind the Darlie Routier case (sorry if I spelled her name wrong); I didn’t follow the case closely and therefore did not form an opinion, but what I found reprehensible is that many people decided she was guilty solely because of that “silly string” video. Everyone grieves in his/her own way.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      I appreciate this insightful comment. I experienced the death of a loved one when I was quite young and I know that the way I responded, although apparently more or less “normal”, was really not something I had any control over. We are not machines.

    • Karen Hackett says:

      I thought of that case too & also the dingo baby case in Australia where the mother served years in prison b4 having her innocence proved. All because she didn’t react how the media deemed appropriate.

      The media has so much to do with verdicts these days I wonder they don’t dispense with expensive trials completely & let ppl vote by text or on websites whether they find someone guilty or not. The media is appalling in its hounding of what often turn out to be innocent ppl cos they r a bit weird/unusual. The UK cases in thinking of are the murder of Jill Dando & the murder of that young architect at Xmas, her name was Jo (sorry will have to look up details) & her elderly landlord was hung drawn & quartered by our press. Then it was proved her neighbor (a conventional looking young architect) was guilty.

      • Rick says:

        Karen – You need to be careful not to give Hollywood-types out there any ideas for a new reality TV show called “Will She Sink or Swim?”

        • Starks Shrink says:

          yes!! Nancy Grace can be the show’s prosecutor, Judge Judy can preside – who would be defense counsel? Of course Ryan Seacrest can announce the voting tallies and perhaps they can have entertainment during sidebars.

          • Rick says:

            Dr. Starks – The character Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad fame clearly must be the defense lawyer for those facing “trial.” Also, during breaks in the action, Vegas oddsmakers can handicap how long it’ll take for a given defendant to sink.

        • Karen Hackett says:

          Lol I’m gonna get an agent and patent this quick! :)

  7. Diana says:

    It seems to me that the wife is privy to a lot more information than she is admitting to. To watch her sitting stoically during the trial with nary a reaction to the questioning. As a mother myself, I can’t imagine a moment where I wouldn’t be crying my eyes out from the loss of my child. And then to think that her husband was texting 6 women during the day and sending pornographic pictures, yet there she continues to sit as if learning what the lunch special is and deciding her choice. Her demeanor is suspect in every way. It just seems that there may have been corroboration between husband and wife to orchestrate this accidental “murder” of their toddler son. Something just is not right with the personalities of these two people. They both seem cold and void of feeling. This is a tragedy of epic proportions, and sadly and innocent young boy was taken was before his time due to negligence and ignorance. I truly believe that both parents knew what was going to happen that day to their son. I can only hope that in the end the whole truth comes out and is exposed so that whoever is truly responsible for this tragedy pays the ultimate price and is sentenced to a lengthy jail stay that limits their freedom and livelihood. Perhaps then we’ll get an honest emotion out of either one of them.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      “she continues to sit as if learning what the lunch special is and deciding her choice”.

      Excellent comment. I’m withholding judgment until more is learned with respect to Leanna’s involvement or lack thereof…

  8. Gay says:

    Not much comment about the evidence that I find particularly shocking: that both parents had researched death from a hot car. Doesn’t that make it akin to a slam dunk? I’m hoping that the husband can dodge the death penalty by revealing his wife’s involvement in the mud er of that previous baby. For a young man, life without parole would be a horrible punishment whereas the death penalty would be merciful.

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