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Defense Calls Witnesses In Hot Car Death Hearing; Hurricane Arthur On Track To Be Category 2

Aired July 3, 2014 - 15:30   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to interview me.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Well, when they talked to you, you obviously -- a media outlet is calling you, you know they have some interest in what's going on, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. When was the first time you talked to the defense?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time I spoke with the defense was late last week.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: And did you contact them or did they contact you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They contacted me.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Now, the friend that you said you were there with, is that Artika? Am I saying that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK, and you've seen her. You know she's been on TV as well, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't seen her.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: You've heard her describe that the defendant would yell and scream, "My god, my child" and then he would calm down. And relax. And then would he start screaming again. Have you heard that description from her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't heard it from her.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. Now, you stated that she was crying and that's how you came to find that this was going on. She was the first one to notice this, right? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: So something had already happened to make her cry, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: So you came to the scene a little bit later than she did and the others did, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: So did you know Mr. --

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A quick break of this eyewitness testimony here. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, so we've been watching this eyewitness. This is one of the people who was on the scene as this father had discovered, according to testimony, that his 22-month-old child in Cobb County, Georgia, was lifeless in this sweltering hot SUV. We're covering, we're analyzing this case. They're taking a quick break right now.

So as they do that, Ashleigh Banfield, let me bring you back in because the biggest take-away as I've been watching and I'm sure you noticed as well. You have seen zero emotion from this defendant thus far until this eyewitness starts to describe the scene.

And not only did the tear roll down this father's face here he is, the jail jumpsuit, but also according to our folks, a tear rolling down the cheek of the wife, the mother, as well.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST, "LEGAL VIEW": Yes. But I didn't see any reaction or emotion when they described the lifeless body with the injuries on the child's face, and the abrasions on the back of his head being rolled out lifeless on the concrete. I'm only seeing the reaction when the witness was talking about the dad's reaction.

I'll tell you something else that's really distressing. The reaction of this defendant is, why is this happening to me? I'll lose my job. I'll be charged with a felony, and his wife says, why, did you say too much? That's distressing. So much of the reaction in this case has been distressing.

We often talk about demeanor and tears and remorse and sadness. We've got some concrete statements here that are just really, really troubling. Add that to one more fact that I'm just going to remind our viewers if they didn't catch this.

And that is that that car, when Justin Harris got into it, apparently smelled horrible. I know that because the detective, an hour after all of this happened, could barely get his head in that car. And that night, another detective said, the car smelled horrible, of decomposition.

And yet Justin Harris was able to get into that car and drive with the windows up for several minutes. Apparently without any concern about the smell in the car. It's just none of these facts seem to be very good.

BALDWIN: Smelled of decomposition and death. Medical examiner said it would have been a painful death. Let's listen back in. New witness here on the stand. This is James Alex Hall. He knows the defendant, knows this father, Justin Harris. They work together, went to school together. Here we go.

JAMES ALEX HALL, CO-WORKER AND FRIEND OF JUSTIN ROSS HARRIS: I don't know exactly when. I talked to him, but I know it was that morning. Probably around 9:30, if I had to guess.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And who all is on the chat log.

HALL: Myself, Ross, Winston and Jason, we are all partners together.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Winston Milling and Jason Abdo?

HALL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And on this particular day, and just to make clear, you're in a different building than Ross.

HALL: Correct. So I'm in the main building and he's in an off-chute, called the tree house.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And during this particular day, you were chatting back and forth amongst the four of you. And was there anything in particular you all were chatting about?

HALL: We wanted to go see a movie that day.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. You didn't make a plan.

HALL: Correct. That was kind of the main focus, that and lunch, and whatever else.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And is that a typical kind of conversation that you all might be chatting about during the day?

HALL: I would say so. Nothing serious. If there is something to do with the business, we chat about that, but generally not during work hours.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK.

HALL: We keep it light.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: All right, and by the way, this chat log, did you -- did you -- did you print, provide that?

HALL: That was Winston.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Winston provided that to the police department?

HALL: I believe so, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: All right, so tell us about lunch. Was it -- what was the plan for you all to go to lunch?

HALL: In a sense that we just kind of said, let's go to lunch, and then we discussed possible places to go, and then we landed on Publix.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And it was like any other day.

HALL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And who picked who up?

HALL: I picked Ross up.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. So you're driving. You pick Ross up.

HALL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: And where is Winston?

HALL: Well -- I sit next to Winston at work in the main building. So we always go together.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. You all drove to lunch.

HALL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Where did you go?

HALL: Publix.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And how was Ross acting that day? Was he acting normal or squirrelly in some way?

HALL: I mean, I wouldn't say abnormal in any way. I would say normal as you could -- as you could be.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK.

HALL: Nothing stuck out. Nothing was weird.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. Was he acting overly anxious or overly panicked about anything?

HALL: No.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. What kind of conversation did you have during lunch?

HALL: I think we talked about movies. It was light. Nothing --

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK.

HALL: I honestly can't remember the exact details what we talked about. You know, just -- shoot the --

JUDGE: Could we move along?

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Yes, judge. Was there anything unusual about the way he was acting that day that stuck out to you?

HALL: No.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: It was a regular day.

HALL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: All right, so after lunch, where did you go?

HALL: Home Depot.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: All right, and which Home Depot?

HALL: The one across from Publix. The one across from Publix.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Why did you go to Home Depot?

HALL: Ross needed light bulbs.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Ross needed light bulbs. All right, so you all went in together to get light bulbs.

HALL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: How long were you in there?

HALL: Ten minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Came back out and he had his light bulbs, right?

HALL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Is getting light bulbs something that you all had planned before lunch?

HALL: No, I think it was something that came up at lunch. I don't think it was planned.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. All right, and so you leave, you're driving and did Ross ask you to drop him off at his car?

HALL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And did you see him get out of -- did you see him approach and get into his car?

HALL: Approached, yes. Get in, no.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And did he have the light bulbs in his hand? HALL: I believe he did, yes. I think that was the whole purpose of him going to his car.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Did he try to in any way dissuade you from not driving up too close to his car?

HALL: I mean, I drove as close as you would reasonably to drop someone off at their car.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Was there anything remarkable or unusual in the way he was asking you to drop him off at his car?

HALL: Nope.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Was there a plan later that day when you all were going to go to the movie? Was one of you going to go ahead of time to purchase the tickets?

HALL: So the general plan was that we would all kind of meet there together individually.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK.

HALL: Winston had to meet with his wife, and I think it was more of just we weren't going to wait on each other to get there. If someone got there first, and they would buy tickets.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: And do you know who was supposed to get there first to buy?

HALL: I think Winston was going to get there first to buy his wife's tickets because he had something going on. But then I was going to buy Ross' ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. And is this the theater, in fact, that's right there near the Akers Mill area?

HALL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: And it's near Sinca?

HALL: I'm not familiar with that restaurant, but in that area, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: And Ross never showed up.

HALL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Did you know why?

HALL: Nope.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Did you all start trying to hunt him down?

HALL: Yes. A little bit. I mean, like, why -- I -- I texted him on the group chat and called him a few times and his phone was off.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK.

JUDGE: You say his phone was off?

HALL: Correct. You call someone, it goes straight to voice mail. I assumed it was off. I don't know for a fact it was off.

JUDGE: Don't assume. Just tell us what you --

HALL: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Would this have been after the movie?

HALL: Well, because -- I -- texted him during the movie and then we didn't show up 30 minutes later. I stepped out to call him.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. Now, did you --

BALDWIN: Quick break here in this hearing. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, we will take you back to this probable cause hearing, bond hearing out of Cobb County, Georgia. I know many of you are hanging on this testimony, every single word. But we have to talk about the ominous skies here over part of the southern east coast, with Hurricane Arthur beginning to show its strength. Chad Myers is watching this thing. Chad, where is he?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: About 30 miles south of Cape Fear, the northern-most eye wall. Cape Fear, that point right there near Wilmington. We have our reporter right there. Another reporter here and another reporter here because this storm is going to go right along that North Carolina coast. It is going to scour the beach. It's going to devour the beach for that matter.

Our reporters in all those red dots there. There is another very big cell right there. That's the northern eye wall about to make landfall at Cape Fear. That doesn't mean the storm is making landfall. Landfall means the center of the eye has to make landfall. We're still a few hours from that. But the storm scours the coast, as all of the winds pile onshore here.

And eventually, offshore here as our reporter, will field that tomorrow morning. Right here, our reporter about 8:00 tonight, the worst of it. And over here near Cape Fear, about 6:00 tonight. So this is a long storm for all of the North Carolina coast. And then, eventually, not that far from Block Island and the cape from tomorrow night.

That's why things have been moved and shifted around for the Boston pops and the lake here because tomorrow night, that's its closest approach. Might even be closer than that, to Boston. We'll have to see. Probably some likely winds across the cape, certainly back into Boston Harbor.

And there you go. It's still gaining strength. It's still getting stronger. The low is still getting deeper and the winds now that I just saw from a hurricane hunter aircraft, 94 miles per hour. We'll see the 5:00 advisory.

BALDWIN: Heed those warnings. Many folks along the Carolina coast are already doing that. Chad Myers, thank you so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: We will take a quick break. We'll be right back to this testimony inside this Cobb County, Georgia, courtroom, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We've been watching for the better part of the last two hours, this probable cause and bond hearing, playing out in a courtroom in Georgia.

So we have been watching this father, Justin Ross Harris, who's been sitting in an orange jail jumpsuit, sitting there and just recently, we have just seen him get a little bit emotional as some of these character witnesses have been talking about him as the eyewitness on the scene, as he is pulling this lifeless 22-month-old body of his child out on to the concrete floor.

And apparently screaming, according to this witness, my God, my God. Juxtapose that with some of those new nuggets we got today from this lead detective, who was initially questioned by the assistant district attorney of Cobb County. And we're learning that this man, you're looking at here, has been looking on the Internet about life without children, how to survive life in prison.

We also learned that he was sexting multiple women, six women that day, including a 16-year-old, may speak to motive. Apparently the marriage, according to both, was not the best of marriages. They were in some financial troubles. There were two life insurance policies on this 22-month-old.

So much coming out today. They're in this recess. So let's get some quick analysis from first, Martin Savidge, who's been covering this from the get-go. He is outside of this Cobb County magistrate court for me. Martin, I'm almost speechless watching this.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's stunning. I have never seen a probable cause hearing -- they're usually very routine. This one has been anything but. And there have been times that you have heard gasps, and it's not just in the courtroom. It's amongst the reporters, because there was no indication, really, to the extent, and this is all, again, coming from the prosecution and the D.A., and the rules of what's to be introduced are different at a trial.

And it's a much lower threshold, but the alternative lifestyle, you've already mentioned, that's part of his motive, that he didn't want to have kids, that he wanted to cash in some insurance, not one, but two insurance policies, that he could so fragrantly forget that he had a child that he had just kissed on the forehead some 2 minutes before putting him into the child seat, on and on and on.

A litany of both callousness, apparently what they say is motive, that he was unhappy with his marriage, but then, you get the defense that comes in and slowly tries to pick apart. They don't go into the sexting or the marriage. In fact, they objected several times, saying that has nothing to do with the death of this child. And what they've been trying to say is that his actions are not as horrific and not as unexplainable as the DA would have you believe.

BALDWIN: Martin, stand by. Jane Velez-Mitchell with our sister network, HLN, who has been listening to this too. Two points I want to talk about, number one, we've been hearing on the stand from a buddy of this father, Justin Harris, went to college with him, work at Home Depot, part of this group that went to lunch.

We know that this father went back to his vehicle, and according to these detectives, later who were inside that car, said there was a smell of death and decomposition. And now knowing, even though this guy denied to police that he went back to the car, there are surveillance cameras around where he worked, and they know for a fact that he went inside the car and he left. Did it smell? What do you think?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN ANCHOR: Of course! Of course, it did.

BALDWIN: Of course, it did.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is one of the most damning court hearings that I have ever heard, having covered Michael Jackson cases, Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias. I don't, really, I think, have ever been more shocked than what I heard today. And if what the prosecution believes is true, this is a portrait of pure evil.

The idea that this man could be inside his office, sending pictures of himself in a state of arousal to various women and getting pictures of breasts while his son, his precious toddler son is in the hot car, dying a torturous death. We heard about scratches to his face and lacerations to his head.

Was he banging his head back and scratching himself in a desperate attempt to survive, while this guy was intent, allegedly, purportedly, according to the prosecution, on living a child-free life. If you don't want children, don't have them! But what is laid out by this prosecutor, it just seems sinister and evil beyond comprehension.

I've got to go to the idea that five days before this child dies, he's purportedly looking at a video of a veterinarian describing how torturous it is to be trapped in a hot car. And then five days later -- it's beyond comprehension!

BALDWIN: If true, there are no words. There are no words. We have to continue to hear both sides. Quick break. They'll hop out of recess in just a moment. We want to make sure we re-join it when they do. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, here we go. Another witness on the stand for the defense. His name is Winston Milling. He is a friend of Justin Harris' and he also is a colleague. And so he was part of this group that all went to lunch that day, the day that this 22-month-old son was dead. And he's testifying that this father, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: So you certainly, then, don't have any recollection of him trying to prevent or preclude the two of you from approaching his car, looking in his car, getting out, anything of that nature?

WINSTON MILLING, BUSINESS PARTNER AND FRIEND OF JUSTIN ROSS HARRIS: That would be normal. We normally just stop, he jumps out, and we drive on.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: That's pretty much what happened that day. Right?

MILLING: As far as I can remember, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. Then, when you got back to the office, the online chat continued between y'all regarding the movie later that night.

MILLING: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Did you notice anything remarkable or unusual about the banter that afternoon?

MILLING: No, I didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: In fact, did Ross continue to participate in a conversation with y'all online about meeting up at a movie in a couple of hours?

MILLING: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Have you ever had a chance to observe Ross around his son?

MILLING: I have.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: In what context?

MILLING: We've gone to the Marietta Festival together. My wife and myself, Ross' son and his wife, we've gone hiking, Kitasaw Mountain, the I.T. picnic festivals, normal family events.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: All right, what kind of dad was Ross?

MILLING: He loved showing Cooper off to everybody. Anything but loving, I couldn't think anything else. He liked picking him up and bringing him around, showing him around. He was always happy, Cooper was always smiling. UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Do you remember anything about Ross entertaining the children at the day care?

MILLING: No. I had no experience with Ross actually at the day care.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: OK. Do you think Ross is capable of intentionally harming his son?

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Objection, speculation.

JUDGE: Sustained.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Has the interaction that you have personally observed the between Ross and Cooper, has it been of a loving father- son relationship?

WILLING: As far as I can tell, yes.

KILGORE: OK. And that's from your personal experience in observing him and the family together, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

KILGORE: Are you aware if Ross has any hearing issues?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is deaf in one ear, or mostly deaf.

KILGORE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mostly being 99 percent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always have to go to the other side of his head to talk to him.

KILGORE: OK.

And you have been around -- you have been around Leanna as well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have.