MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — Lawyers for a Georgia man accused of intentionally leaving his toddler in a hot vehicle to die want a judge to close the courtroom for hearings where evidence will be discussed before the trial.
Citing extensive local and national media attention focused on this case, Justin Ross Harris’ lawyers argued in a motion filed Tuesday that allowing public and media access to such pretrial hearings could jeopardize his right to a fair trial and make it impossible to seat a fair and impartial jury.
The Associated Press and several other media outlets plan to challenge the request to close the courtroom.
Kim Isaza, a spokeswoman for the Cobb County district attorney’s office, said she can’t comment on motions.
Police have said Harris left his 22-month-old son Cooper in an SUV for about seven hours on June 18, 2014, when temperatures reached at least into the high 80s in the Atlanta area.
Harris was arrested that day and has been in custody since then. He was indicted in September 2014 on multiple charges, including malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children.
Harris has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyers have said the child’s death was a tragic accident.
A hearing on pretrial motions in the case is set to begin Monday. Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley plans to hear arguments on the motion to close the courtroom before taking up other requests.