commentary by Patrick H. Moore
In 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.
At 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:
“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.
And 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.
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.
The 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.”
In 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.”
And 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…
The 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.”
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:
Click here to view Starks Shrink’s previous post on the Cooper Harris hyperthermia death:
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