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When we last left the Cobb County Courthouse, the voir dire for the Ross Harris child death trial was almost complete.

The operative word here is ALMOST.

Harris and his legal team got some help when Judge Mary Staley ruled that there was going to be a change of venue.

Cobb County would not be hosting the trial of the man that is accused of leaving his 20-month old child inside a hot car in the Georgia heat in June 2014. Things were about to move to another place.

Prior to the venue change, 41 of the 42 jurors that would be needed for the malice murder trial that would have taken place this month were selected. The defense, led by Bryan Lumpkin, had complained that Staley qualified five jurors who were biased against their client and that a fair and impartial jury could not be found in Cobb County. After the judge asked the two sides to collaborate on a solution, the state agreed to strike two of the five disputed jurors. The defense, feeling confident, insisted all on five.

The judge said that forced her hand and Staley said in her ruling that media coverage has been “persistent, pervasive” and ultimately colored the prospective jurors opinions. Some jurors on their forms had written that Ross deserved the death penalty, even though Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds was not seeking it.

While the defense did have their victory of sorts, the decision could delay the trial for months, which means that things could be pushed back to the Fall or early Winter.

Court administrator Tom Charron, a former Cobb district attorney, said earlier Monday that if the trial were moved, it would likely be delayed until fall and could cost the county an additional $100,000.

Reynolds told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, “While we’re certainly disappointed, we understand and respect the court’s ruling. Whenever and wherever this case is set for trial, the state will be ready.”

Harris, accused of intentionally leaving his son inside a hot car to die, faces malice and felony murder charges in a case his attorneys say cannot be fairly tried in Cobb. Defense lawyer Bryan Lumpkin asked Judge Staley to “err on the side of caution” by granting their motion for a change of venue, saying at least half of the jurors stated a bias against the former Home Depot web developer.

Like the defense, the prosecution also cited numbers, particularly the 34 jurors the defense agreed were qualified. The state denied the defense’s contention that police abnd prosecutors had deliberately inflamed public opinion in the case, saying the defense did its share to raise the profile of the case. Since the motion for change of venue was granted, the process now has to start anew, using another jury pool chosen from outside the metro Atlanta area. Once a pool of (presumably) 42 jurors are found they would be bused to Cobb for a trial. If the trial is moved outside of Marietta, 30 minutes north of Atlanta along I-75, there is some speculation that Macon (Bibb County), Columbus (Muscogee County) or Brunswick (Glynn County) were possible sites.

Before making her ruling, Staley asked for an exact calculation of how many challenges she didn’t grant the defense and prosecution. She also agreed to review three of the jury questionnaires.

With that, there are some questions (Cue cheesy soap opera-type music).

First, will the county that the trial is moved to use the same questionare that caused this problem in the first place?

Second, will the jury be sequestered in their home county or bused to Cobb or will they stay put?

Third, will a county that has the same population type allow this trial to take place? Cobb would have to petition the county in question and they would have to respond either yea or nay.

Fourth, since Harris is currently being held without bond, would there be jail space in the county that gets the trial?

So Ross Harris got a break in his upcoming trial. He still has an unbreakable date with the justice system but now he’s going to get a do-over, as it were. His son is dead, his wife has left him and he sits behind bars in Cobb County with the mark of Cain on his head.

Say what you will about Ross Harris. He’s been accused of murdering his child by leaving him in a parked car while he went to work at Home Depot and texting underage females while still married. He’s not perfect and given the things that he’s been accused of, he’s not the sharpest knife in the restaurant. He’s been given a second chance of sorts with the change of venue. He’s hoping that the citizens of the county that gets this trial is fairer than the ones in Cobb.

Let the soap opera begin.


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