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Defense case begins for dad standing trial in toddler son's hot car death

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- The Georgia father accused of leaving his toddler son to die in a hot car was looking to buy a home in a good school district in the weeks before the boy’s death, a real estate agent testified at the father’s murder trial Friday.

Justin Ross Harris listens to jury selection during his trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Stephen B. Morton, AP

Prosecutors began presenting their case against Justin Ross Harris Oct. 3, and rested Friday after calling 51 witnesses, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Real estate agent Roger Webb, called to the stand Friday afternoon, was the first witness called by Harris’ defense, the paper reports.

Prosecutors say Harris intentionally killed his 22-month-old son Cooper by leaving him for hours in a vehicle parked outside the father’s metro Atlanta workplace in June 2014. They say Harris actually plotted to kill his son, hoping to escape his family responsibilities to focus on sexual liaisons he was having with prostitutes and women he met online. 

Harris is also charged with sending sexually explicit text messages and photos to an underage teen girl.

Defense attorneys argue while Harris is responsible for the boy’s death, it was a tragic accident.

Webb testified that in early 2014, Harris had expressed interest in moving out of his Marietta condo and buying a home in East Cobb, well-regarded for it school district in the Atlanta suburbs, the paper reports.

The quality of the school system was “very important to him,” Webb testified. The defense suggested Harris was thinking about a life with the child well into the future, the paper reports.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Chuck Boring suggested Harris wasn’t actively searching for a home.

The defense is expected to continue presenting their case for another one or two weeks, the paper reports. 

In opening statements early this month, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore said he expected to call to the stand Leanna Harris, Cooper’s mother and Justin Ross Harris’ ex-wife. 

He said she would testify that her former husband was “a wonderful father.”

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