crimesider

Lawyer: Mom of tot who died in hot car "devastated"

Leanna Harris CBS affiliate WGCL

A lawyer for the mother of a Georgia toddler who died in a hot car last month has issued a statement saying his client is "devastated" by her son's death and is being unfairly scrutinized by the media.

Leanna Harris is "living every parent's nightmare," read the statement, released by Atlanta-based attorney Lawrence Zimmerman. "The child she bore and loved every moment of his life has died. For most parents, it is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend such as thing. But for Leanna, that nightmare is all too real."

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Leanna Harris and Justin Harris with their son, Cooper Harris in an undated photograph.

CBS 46
Harris' husband, 33-year-old Justin Harris, is accused of leaving the couple's son Cooper to die inside a hot SUV for over seven hours while he went to work at a Home Depot just outside Atlanta on June 18. He awaits trial on murder and child cruelty charges.

Harris has said he accidentally left the child in the vehicle.

Leanna Harris has not been charged in the case, though her seeming lack of emotion following her son's death has drawn public criticism. Zimmerman blasted the scrutiny, saying the media "has fostered a poisonous atmosphere in which Leanna's every word, action and emotion - or failure to cry in front of a crowd -- is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning."

"Reporters have delved into Leanna's upbringing, her employment, quizzed people for information about her marriage, and her sex life. The constant attention has prevented her from returning to work," the statement read.

Comparing Leanna Harris to a former "suspect" who was later cleared, Zimmerman wrote, "In much the same way, the press unjustly harassed and hounded Olympic bombing hero Richard Jewell when he didn't behave as some thought he should."

The hot car case has drawn national attention, and prosecutors have also alleged that Justin Harris was "sexting" with a 17-year-old girl as his son died in the hot SUV.

During the investigation into her son's death, police attributed statements to her that have raised questions, including allegedly asking her husband, "Did you say too much?" reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Leanna Harris also allegedly told police that leaving her son in a hot car was her "worst fear," reports the paper. Investigators have said the couple researched online how long a child could last inside a hot car and took out two life insurance policies on the 22-month-old, reports CBS affiliate WGCL.

Zimmerman didn't address those allegations in the statement. He said Leanna Harris was mourning Cooper's death "deeply, in her own private way" and requested privacy for his client.

"For Leanna, Cooper's death has been devastating. She asks that she be allowed to grieve in private without reporters calling, following or watching her home," the statement reads.

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