Judge Mary Staley Clark of Cobb County Georgia found nothing mitigating in the defense of Justin Ross Harris, who in 2014 left his 22-month-old son locked in a hot car for seven hours, killing the boy. The case against Harris was heightened by evidence that he exchanged sexually-charged messages with various women during the day the child was locked in the car. Those messages, sent by a married man, were seen as further evidence of Harris’ neglect and depravity.
Judge Staley sentenced Harris to life in prison without parole for murder, with an additional 32 years for convictions on four other counts including dissemination of harmful material to minors. (Some of the women Harris exchanged messages with were underage.) Judge Staley was elected Magistrate Judge of Cobb County in 1982, later serving as Judge of the Superior Court of Cobb County and its Chief Judge (2005-06). Before becoming a judge, Staley was the Assistant District Attorney for the Cobb Judicial Circuit from 1978-1982. The current Assistant District Attorney, Chuck Boring, convinced Staley that only life in prison matched Harris’ crime.