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Father's trial to begin in hot car death of toddler

Justin Harris in Glynn County courtroom (WAGA-TV image)
Justin Harris in Glynn County courtroom (WAGA-TV image)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – More than two years after a Georgia toddler died after being left for hours inside a hot SUV, the child's father is scheduled to stand trial for murder.

The trial of Justin Ross Harris is expected to last several weeks in coastal Brunswick, where it was moved from metro Atlanta because of pretrial publicity. Harris' 22-month-old son, Cooper, died in June 2014.

The judge Monday plans to seat a final jury from a pool of 45 people deemed qualified earlier this month. Afterward, attorneys are expected to make opening statements.

Prosecutors have said Harris, who moved to Georgia from Alabama in 2012, was unhappy in his marriage and seeking other relationships at the time his son died. Harris' attorneys say the death was a tragic accident.  They also ended up charging him with sharing at least one sexually explicit text message and photo with a girl under 18.

Authorities have said the 35-year-old father, who moved to Georgia from Alabama in 2012, was unhappy in his marriage at the time of his son's death and was seeking relationships with other women.

During eight days of jury selection that ended last week, Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark dismissed a number of potential jurors who said they knew about the case and had already decided Harris was guilty.

Defense lawyers also asked possible jurors if they had family members who watched pornography, and whether they had ever dealt with a cheating spouse or significant other. The answers could help them weed out panelists who hold Harris' sexual behavior against him when weighing charges related to his son's death, said Page Pate, an Atlanta defense attorney.

"It makes your client completely unsympathetic," said Pate, who is not part of Harris' trial team.