The latest development in the case of the hot car death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris in Cobb County, Georgia, comes in the form of a victim impact statement released by his mother Leanna Harris. Leanna Harris has been at the center of this case since the July 3 probable cause hearing for the father of the victim, Justin Ross Harris. At the probable cause hearing, lead investigator for the case Detective Phil Stoddard testified and presented evidence to the court on a warrant for probable cause in the detention of Justin Ross Harris for felony murder on the grounds of child cruelty in the second degree. Judge Frank Cox granted the warrant, and denied bond suggesting the "possibility of this becoming a death penalty case" in the future. At the time of press, only one person has been charged in the hot car death of Cooper Harris, but since that probable cause hearing the mother of the victim Leanna Harris has been under scrutiny. The scrutiny Leanna Harris has been under is a direct result of evidence presented at that probable cause hearing, and for no other reason at all. WSB TV Atlanta broke the story on Aug. 8 that after many weeks of not hearing anything from Leanna Harris, her words on the matter have come to light in the form of a victim's impact statement she has provided for the courts. In that statement she blames the media for what has happened in her life, also slams the justice system, and identifies herself as a victim in the hot car death of her son.
WSB TV Atlanta broke the story yesterday on Aug. 8 that the Cobb County District Attorney's Office had requested a victim's impact statement package for the mother of the victim Leanna Harris. Ross Harris is facing multiple charges including felony murder in the hot car death of his 22-month-old Cooper Harris on June 18 in Cobb County, and remains in jail until he faces those charges in court.
Detective Phil Stoddard presented evidence at the probable cause hearing for Justin Ross Harris against him to warrant the charges, and also presented evidence in the form of alarming statements made by Leanna Harris shortly after the death of her child.
It is these statements, and others sworn to by an officer of the court that has put Leanna Harris under scrutiny regarding the death of her child. The statements have been so alarming that many have speculated she is implicated or somehow involved in the tragedy of the hot car death of Cooper Harris.
While there are sadly many of these tragedies happening all over the nation right now, this case in particular seems to have struck a chord with the public because of testimony that has come out against them, from a sworn officer of the court.
The statements included statements like the infamous "Did you say too much?" when she arrived at the police station to speak with her husband after first learning of this tragedy that derailed her life. Detective Stoddard also testified to some alarming statements Leanna Harris made at a day care center that day when she went to go and pick up Cooper Harris on the day that he died.
Since then, Leanna Harris has been making every effort to not say too much, and it appears that she gets very upset when people do. She has hired a death penalty certified criminal defense lawyer to help her in this regard, and according to CNN today, that is not the only reason she hired a lawyer. CNN today is reporting that her own lawyer is saying that Leanna Harris is concerned about charges being levied.
Should Leanna Harris be concerned about charges being levied? If she has nothing to hide, then why would she be?
WSB TV Atlanta reported yesterday that a victim impact's statement has come out from Leanna Harris. It is the first time she has said much of anything since the funeral for her son, where she said in his eulogy she would not bring him back if given the chance. According to the Cobb County District Attorney's Office a victim impact's statement is standard protocol for any person that has been involved to or related to a crime.
In other words, it is not a reflection of guilt or innocence of Leanna Harris, as she would receive the victim impact and grief package whether they thought she was innocent or not under standard protocol. Her lawyer however Lawrence Zimmerman told WSB TV Atlanta however that he believes that is a sign that Cobb County is not considering charges against his client.
WSB TV reported yesterday that Leanna Harris received a package that is considered a grief package, or victim impact package a few weeks ago. Mike Petchenik for WSB TV Channel 2 says the package is something like a grief package, and contains things like booklets on how to deal with loss. A request to fill out a statement as a victim of a crime was also included in the package. Zimmerman, who has worked in the Atlanta area, told WSB TV Atlanta that,
"In my experience, the district attorney only sends packages like these when they think someone is the victim of a crime. That's what I believe based on what they've sent her. This is the most high profile case in the social media era that Cobb County's ever had, and the biggest case by far that Vic Reynolds has had since becoming the district attorney. This just didn't get out by mistake. That doesn't happen."
CNN is reporting today that contrary to Zimmerman's "experience" that yes, it actually does. CNN procured a copy of the victim impact statement that Leanna Harris made and can be seen in the slideshow here. CNN has also received a statement from Kim Isaza the spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney's Office who said,
"We are required by the Crime Victim's Bill of Rights to send those forms to all victims or a victim's next of kin."
WSB TV Atlanta reported yesterday that Kim Isaza has also stated she can not confirm or deny at this time whether or not Leanna Harris is a suspect as it is still an active investigation.
If it is standard protocol for next of kin, Leanna Harris would be the obvious person to send this information to. In many cases these statements are also used by prosecutors to gauge a potential witness as well. The statements can be used to determine how willing a witness is for example in testifying against the person they are building a case about. Judging by the statements in Leanna Harris' victim impact statements, many statements she made give the impression that she does not feel like much of a crime has been committed at all.
Statements made by Leanna Harris give a very "stand by your man" impression, and she also identifies her Self as the relationship to the victim, suggesting she feels she is the victim in this case. If there was ever a chance to write down true and purposeful words that would aid in the quest of justice for her son, a victim impact statement would be the place to do it.
In her victim impact statements, Leanna describes how her life has been derailed, but she does not blame her husband for that at all. She blames the media, she thinks the media has said too much. She also slams the justice system and states that she has lost faith in it. She then describes the "death of my son" as "unreal" and provides some statements on her grief.
If the intent from the Cobb County District Attorney's office was to gauge whether or not she would testify against Ross Harris, the statements made suggest the possibility of that being unlikely. If Cobb County were to put the media and the entire justice system on trial however, Leanna Harris might have a few things to say about that, since she feels they are responsible for derailing her life.
In Case number 14-WD-5669 where Justin Ross Harris is charged with cruelty to children in the second degree, felony murder, Leanna Harris wrote on a form that was "to be completed by a victim or for a victim by a family member or attorney" and identified Self as the relationship to the victim.
When asked to explain how the crime has affected her family she said,
"The death of my son is still unreal. Not a moment goes by when I don't think about him or what our future would have held. The amount of grief this has caused is indefinable, it cannot be explained in words or emotions. I now live a tortured existence. I depend on my Lord for strength and guidance."
Leanna Harris also wrote that since the death of her son she has been receiving grief counseling and counseling for depression. She may even be prescribed medication which could explain the flat affect that many have noted from her. Even so, she does not hesitate to point fingers when asked the emotional effects that she has experienced from this crime.
"Whatever issues that transpired in our marriage is between God and us, for He will judge those moral sins. The rush to judgement by the public and the mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society."
Leanna also stated that she is in treatment for the loss of her child and her husband, and claims that the crime has left her unable to earn a living. When she is asked to describe "If this crime has affected your ability to earn a living, explain how and include the number of days lost from work" Leanna Harris handles the question in a very strange way.
She describes how bad her life is since this happened, but she does not refer to the accused in this crime as the perpetrator of that crime. Instead, she blames the media, alleging that the media is responsible for what is happening to her right now. In so doing, she is alleging that the worst things that have happened to her since the death of her son has been caused by the media.
Her response to provide details on how she has lost wages and the like read,
"I had to transfer my job to Alabama. My return to work has been delayed due to the media hounding me. I did lose a consulting job I have had in Alabama for four years due to the media. As of 8/1/14 I have been out of work 43 days."
So, according to Leanna Harris, this is all the media's fault, and the fault of the justice system. She certainly does not think this is any of Ross Harris's fault, and says that is between them and God. In her last statement when asked if she wants anything additional taken into consideration by the Prosecutor and/or judge she says,
"Ross was a wonderful father, and he loved Cooper with all of his heart. Because I saw how he treasured our little boy for 22 months, I know without a doubt he would never have knowingly allowed any harm to come to our son. I want you to know what a loving father he was."
There is no doubt that Leanna Harris is grieving, and it is not unlikely that Justin Ross Harris is as well. They are human beings, after all.
But when your best case scenario is that your entire life has been derailed due to egregious stupidity and selfishness, it doesn't look good.
It also doesn't look good when you point fingers in every other direction but yourself for the reasons that your life has been derailed, and that is in the best case scenario that this is nothing short of an epic moment of egregious stupidity and selfishness.
Leanna Harris seems to have forgotten that it was not the media that asked Justin Ross Harris if he had said too much.
Leanna Harris seems to have forgotten it was not the media that said, if given the chance they would not bring that precious little boy back into this world.
Leanna Harris seems to have forgotten that justice for that precious little boy that she is grieving for will not be served until people stop worrying about who is saying too much, and just start telling the truth.
Leanna Harris does not want anyone to judge her. But she has no problem pointing the finger back at....anyone other than her husband, or herself.
Does this victim impact statement have any bearing on whether or not it is perceived that Leanna Harris may be a suspect in this case? A lot of people think that it is a sign they will clear her. A lot of people think however that people don't hire a criminal defense attorney unless they think they will need one, which is what Leanna's lawyer Lawrence Zimmerman said according to CNN.
Leanna Harris has not been charged in connection to the hot car death of her son, but according to CNN, Zimmerman said Friday that,
"She is concerned that the district attorney's office may try to level a charge against her."
Do you think the victim impact statement clears her? What do you think of her stand by your man approach? If you were in her shoes, and this were just an incident of eggregious stupidity, and your husband was also sexting multiple women while your son was dying, what would your victim impact statement say?