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Probable Cause Hearing Held in Toddler Death Case; Hurricane Fears

Aired July 3, 2014 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we go. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Two major stories we're watching this Thursday afternoon here. On one side of your screen, these are live pictures from the Cobb County courthouse, magistrate court, as we're watching this probable-cause and bond hearing involving this father here in Georgia who left his 22-month-old son in this sweltering hot SUV as he went to work.

And now we're getting the new details about how he was online, according to this detective, Googling child-free, what it's like to live child-free, how to survive in prison, fear of animals and a child dying in a hot car. And also we're learning that he was sexting with women as young as 16 years of age the day his son was suffering in that hot car.

We have analysis on both sides for you. Also, we're talking about Hurricane Arthur gaining and growing in strength by the hour. So let's begin there.

So, Hurricane Arthur now on track to become a Category 2 storm. The season's first hurricane is headed toward the North Carolina coast, with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Some of the barrier islands are now under these mandatory and voluntary evacuations. These are live pictures, you can see. Those palm trees are swaying, Wrightsville Beach, a lot of people out on this eve of the Fourth of July holiday enjoying the surf for now.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BALDWIN: We have reporters up and down the coastline. So, stay with us. Go to CNN.com of course for the latest weather conditions.

But let's jump back to Cobb County, Georgia, to this probable cause and bond hearing under way right now. The guy in the tie on the right side of your screen, this is the defense attorney, and he's now cross- examining the gentleman on the left. He's lead detective in this case of this death of this 22-month-old who was left in the sweltering hot car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has financial difficulty, so no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All right. Well, their checkbook is not overdrawn, is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I haven't received those records yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Well, you have been through all their -- you have been through all their mail during the search warrant procedure. You didn't see anything where any creditors were after them, did you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn't present there, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, did your detectives report back anything of that nature?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. So...

One second, please?

BALDWIN: OK.

As we're watching and they're taking a quick pause and pouring some water, let me bring in Holly Hughes in. She's defense attorney, been a prosecutor.

Listen, we have been listening to the testimony, first, obviously, the ADA questioning this lead detective, talking about everything from which way he turned on his way from breakfast that morning to work and would he have seen that rear-facing child seat, to the sexts he sent the day of this child's death to the videos he was Googling. Your takeaway.

HOLLY HUGHES, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: OK. The ADA did a great job laying out everything. You know, he's very methodical, Brooke. I know this ADA personally. That's what we expected to see. But now the defense has its turn.

And we need to remember, this guy does not sound very good right now. He's a cheat. He's a liar. We know that. Is he a killer? What we see the defense attorney doing is going through, finding out who are the witnesses? Is there more evidence? This investigation is still ongoing. And remember last week, everybody was jumping on the opposite bandwagon.

So we need to wait until all of the evidence comes out. I know we talked about this last week. Everybody was behind him, saying, yes, you know, drop the charges against him. And there was that rush to judgment. There were 11,000 people that signed a petition saying he's innocent, this was an accident, trying to pressure the DA into dropping the charges.

So we need to take a step back. Remember, this is only a prelim. And this will be litigated. All the issues that are being allowed into this preliminary hearing may not come in at trial. That jury may be sequestered. And that jury may not hear all of this. A trial judge may say, while he is a cheat, it isn't relevant to what happened that day.

BALDWIN: OK. HUGHES: So we have to kind of hold off, wait until all of the

evidence is, and wait until we see what trial evidence will be brought out.

BALDWIN: Hold off. We want to hear both sides of the story. Again, defense attorney cross-examining the lead detective in this case. Let's listen back in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's fair to say that Reddit is a site that Ross has on his computer a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's kind of like a social media clearinghouse. People can post videos and stories and all kinds of things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's fair to say that he's clicked and looked at videos and stories on dozens and dozens and dozens of different topics?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one of those topics that you say that he clicked on at some point was something called child-free?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And when was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: April.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: April?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2014.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And this isn't something that he typed in searching, researching. It's just something that he clicked on that was up on that site. Right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the site that he went. I don't know how he was directed to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So there's no -- you don't have any evidence that he actually typed in a Google search or a Reddit search or anything for child-free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You testified that -- I believe your testimony was that he searched on how to survive prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Was that off the Reddit site?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Was that a specific Google search? I mean...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You're saying that was actually typed in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. When was that typed in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have that date yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. So that could have been a year ago, for all you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you all have looked way back, haven't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he doesn't know.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that Ross told you that he was -- he had some law enforcement experience and that he worked at 911?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, in dispatch.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In dispatch. And he said he worked there for a couple of years?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five years, I believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you work law enforcement like that or work 911, you learn how to call out letters by military style, by words, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is something that he would have done regularly as part of his job. That's not necessarily remarkable, is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it was remarkable in the setting that it occurred in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

Have you talked to any of Ross' friends or colleagues to find out if he talks that way all the time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he watched a TV show regarding an advocate who lost a child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What -- when was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Do you know the name of the show?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where he watched it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Was it on a TV or a computer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You testified in direct that Ross said that he learned about turnaround.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' All right. What does that mean? What did it mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it meant to me is that the turnaround program, where they advocate turning around and checking to see if there is any child in the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Do you think it's possible that what he was talking about there was the look again, the look again campaign that...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Speculation and asked and answered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sustained.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' The video that you said that was from a veterinarian...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' That posted up on Reddit on June the 13th. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know when.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he read it. I'm sorry. I don't know when it was posted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he accessed on June the 13th of 2014.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. And it's fair to say that you know with all certainty that's not something that he Googled or searched out. It was simply a story that was a video that was -- a posted up on that site, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I can't say that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' But that's the site he saw it from, Reddit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm not sure if it was Reddit or YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK, because that video was actually shared on YouTube and on Facebook and several other places, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. When I watched it, I watched it on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. You said that -- you said that you were able it to tell that he watched it twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' What were the two times he watched it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have the times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know the date of the first one...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... was June 13. I don't know the date of the second one yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. Could have been the same day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Possibly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. Could it have been that he got called away from his desk at work and came back and hit resume to play the balance of it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' But it could be? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not say that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. If there were two different times, that might account for it, though, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Asked and answered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sustained.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. Leanna was first -- Ross' wife was first interviewed at Home Depot at the Treehouse location?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Who did that interview?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detective Stockinger (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' By himself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detective Racy (ph) was with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' That's the one I can't spell. OK.

Was that interview recorded?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. On audio?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just audio -- it is recorded. It's audio alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. Were they the ones that told Leanna that Cooper was deceased?

BALDWIN: Just a quick break here in this probable cause and bond hearing out of Georgia. You're looking at the father here in that orange jumpsuit.

He is Justin Ross Harris, accused of felony murder in the death of his 22-month-old who was left in that car. Back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: And we're back live inside this Cobb County, Georgia courtroom. Defense attorney questioning this lead detective in this case, this death of a 22-month-old child left in this sweltering hot car in June, and specifically now talking about the type of car seat in this SUV. Take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speculation and no foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' I'm asking, Judge...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, he's answered the question. I don't know -- he's getting -- apparently show him something here. Have you shown it to Mr. Born (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' I have, Judge.

OK. Well, you have certainly seen Ross' chats on his phone, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, sir, there are so many. It's been very sporadic. I have not had time to absorb all the information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

I'm going to approach you then with exhibit one and just ask if you have seen this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' You have not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

Would it be relevant to your investigation to find out that at 3:16 on June the 18th, Ross had texted his wife, when are you going to get my buddy? Would that be relevant?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's very relevant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

And you have had his phone, but you haven't seen that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The last text -- actual text message, if that is a text message, was back in May. If that's a kick or I.M. or Google chat or I don't know where that came from, then, yes, that's probably still in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

BALDWIN: All right.

Let's take a quick pause and just jump outside of this courtroom. We have our correspondent, Martin Savidge, following this for us.

Martin, as we have been listening here to both the initial questioning from the assistant district attorney in Cobb County, now watching as our eyes are trained on this defendant here, this father, been listening to the cross-examination from the defense attorney, it looks like a packed courtroom. You have been watching this. What are your takeaways so far?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, you know, we were told to expect anything. But I don't think anyone could have expected the kind of story that certainly has been coming from the lead investigator and through the district attorney's office as to what the motive appears to have been. And, again, you know, this has for the most part been a one-sided.

You do have the defense now trying to pick apart. And we should also point out, this is not a trial. It's not even close to how a trial would proceed. It's a probable cause hearing. So there's a lot of stuff allowed to be heard, hearsay, namely, one, that would not be allowed in a court of law, but still damning evidence that has been suggested by the DA that this was a man who had an ulterior lifestyle online, that he yearned to be childless, that he was sexting with a number of different women on the very day his child is dying in a parking lot.

It depicts him as depraved and almost sick individual who somehow studied how animals die inside of a hot car. Now, though, the defense is beginning to point out certain things. One point that was made, the family had financial problems and there was insurance, not one, but two insurance policies.

The defense has managed to get the lead investigator to sort of waffle on whether they really had financial problems, and now beginning to pick apart those searches on the Web that seem so damning, saying, well, there were many, many different searches of a lot of different topics, and, really, how sinister were all of these?

And you began to see that the investigator was caught a few times having to backtrack on some of this. Still, it is not as if they have been able to negate all of the negative stuff that has been brought out about the father.

And then, on top of that, how do you forget you have a child in less than a mile to go from where the two had breakfast to where the father goes to work and the day care is located? There is the common sense and then there is the just almost unbelievable sexual texting lifestyle that is depicted by the DA, and amazing and really disturbing.

BALDWIN: This alternate lifestyle. And so the assistant district attorney also saying that, because of that, there could be a flight risk, maybe tough to keep this guy -- tough to keep to keep track of him, right, so this is probable cause and also a bond hearing.

We're waiting, defense attorney there on the right side of your screen, for another witness to be called. Guys, do we know if he will be called immediately? Quick break. Stay right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right.

Jumping out of break, back into this testimony. So the defense has now called this witness. This is an eyewitness who was there at that strip mall area after this father had apparently pulled the car over upon realizing he had a child in his back of his car, his child, who appeared lifeless.

So this is Leonard Madden. And he's about to explain exactly what he saw. LEONARD MADDEN, WITNESS: ... what the matter was, thinking that she

would, of course, say something was just in my eye. She believed that someone had a heart attack, and they weren't breathing.

And when I looked into the direction that she was speaking and pointing towards, I went closer to see for myself what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' All right. What did you observe?

MADDEN: I saw a figure, but I wasn't able to tell from where I was walking who it was or the age.

But when I got closer, I thought it was a doll. And about three or four feet away, I noticed that it was the body of a toddler. Right then, my heart dropped, because I saw this precious boy laying there lifeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. Did you see anybody as you were walking toward him? Tell us what you saw as you were walking.

MADDEN: The father, Mr. Ross, had just given his child CPR. And about two other people came near to assist.

As I got closer, you could just hear his cries and his desperation for his son to be revived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. What did you hear him say?

MADDEN: Well, he was saying: "Oh, my God, oh, my God. My son is dead. Oh, my God, my son is dead."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' And did he say it matter-of-factly or plainly like you're speaking, or did he -- was it with any particular inflection?

MADDEN: It sounded as though he was saying it out of hurt and disappointment, out of desperation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Was he screaming?

MADDEN: He was yelling, he was hollering, he was screaming, which is -- I would in the event I were in that situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' And did you observe him sobbing, crying, anything of that nature?

MADDEN: All of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Say again?

MADDEN: All of that. He was crying. He was -- he was hollering. He was -- yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. And if you could express to the judge kind of what Mr. Harris' demeanor was during this crying and screaming. Could you characterize that for the judge? MADDEN: Certainly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' What you observed.

MADDEN: Well, Your Honor, he was in total disarray, much as I'm sure anyone here would be in the event they were in that situation, as I would be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, just tell us what you observed.

MADDEN: He was standing there, and he was walking around. He was looking up in the sky. And he was just saying, "Oh, my God." He was screaming. He was -- he was very hurt. And...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Speculation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. You just -- you tell us what you saw, and what you heard.

MADDEN: I heard the desperate cries of a father who had just lost his son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you're characterizing things. Just tell us specifically what words you heard.

MADDEN: He was saying: "Oh, my God, oh, my God, my son is dead. Oh, my God, my son is dead."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' And how close were you to Mr. Harris while this was going on?

MADDEN: I was roughly about three or four feet away from him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' How many?

MADDEN: Three or four feet, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Thirty to 40?

MADDEN: Three to four.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Three to four?

MADDEN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Three to four feet away?

MADDEN: Three to four, yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' And were you aware if there was anyone calling 911?

MADDEN: I can't say for certain. But I did see people that were there. They were on their phones.

And he got on his phone. But I can't say matter of factly that they were calling 911 or anyone in particular.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Did you hear anyone yell, call 911, somebody call 911?

MADDEN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' And did you observe any sort of encounter -- first of all, how long were you there before police arrived?

MADDEN: I would say 20, 30 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' All right. And when they got there, what happened?

MADDEN: Well, of course, they immediately came to the child, to Cooper. And they checked for vitals, things of that sort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' You don't know Mr. Harris.

MADDEN: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Never seen him before that afternoon?

MADDEN: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

And did you see the police officers interacting with Mr. Harris, asking him to do anything, dealing with him in any way?

MADDEN: Initially, they went to the child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

MADDEN: And they were checking for vitals, after which Mr. Cooper -- or -- pardon me -- Mr. Ross, of course, he was coming near, closer to his son to -- just to view. And they wanted him to keep his distance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. What happened?

MADDEN: One of the officers raised her voice to him, for him to stay back. And he told her to shut up. And...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' He cursed at her?

MADDEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. What was -- what happened then?

MADDEN: Two officers, they approached him aggressively. And they put handcuffs on him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' All right. And did they put him in the back of a police car?

MADDEN: They did. UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' All right. And how far away was it from where --

where the child was on the ground?

MADDEN: I would say it was at least 100 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Four hundred feet?

MADDEN: One hundred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' Oh, 100 feet.

MADDEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK.

And did you stick around the scene and make a statement to police?

MADDEN: I did. It was a short statement to a -- I believe she said he was a homicide detective. I also spoke with two officers that were in uniform briefly.

But they wanted to get our information, names and numbers, things of that sort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. And did you tell them what you are telling us in court today?

MADDEN: Not in depth. I told them that I was there, I walked up and saw what was going on. I saw Mr. Ross. I saw his son laying there lifeless. And others were assisting him or assisting, trying to give CPR, and that he was reacting, I would say, normally to a situation of this magnitude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' OK. And did it appear to you that it was genuine distress and grief on his part?

MADDEN: It was definitely genuine and very passionate and organic. I felt his pain. I even wept and mourned his son. And I have never met him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:' All right. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you spoke with the police at the scene, correct?

MADDEN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While this was fresh in your mind?

MADDEN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you told them what you saw and experienced on that day, correct?

MADDEN: Yes, sir, briefly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the next time that you have actually told this story to somebody?

MADDEN: My friend and I spoke about it in the car briefly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And when did you actually tell someone else about it?

MADDEN: I spoke with a reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

MADDEN: They wanted to interview me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you knew there was media interest, correct?

MADDEN: I did not at the time that I gave my information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when they talked to you, you -- obviously, a media outlet is calling you.