Laser Scanning and the Justin Ross Harris Case (aka Hot Car Death)

harris-car-external-view3-w-logoIn a high profile case Justin Ross Harris was charged with and found guilty on eight counts including: malice murder, two counts of felony murder, first-degree cruelty to children, second-degree cruelty to children, sexual exploitation of children and two counts of disseminating harmful material to minors. 

Harris was convicted of intentionally leaving his 22-month-old son in his SUV for 7 hours in the Georgia heat on June 18th 2014. The motive was presented as Harris wanting an escape from his life and that he viewed his son Cooper as a hindrance. Salacious details were presented during the 5-week trial of Harris’ dark private life involving prostitutes and even under-age females. Harris maintained he had forgotten to drop Cooper off at the daycare facility. 

Dustin Forensics was contacted on June 20th 2014 to perform 3D laser scanning related to the case, two days after the incident. 

A FARO X330 was used to capture the vehicle exterior and a FARO Freestyle (captured at a later date) for the vehicle interior. An iOS app called iViewer360 (panoramic photo viewer) was used to show the line of sight from the approximate position of the driver’s seated location. The app is interactive, utilizing the accelerometer of the iOS device to orient the view relative to the position of the individual. 

The image was displayed to the jury in real-time. Rotating the iPad causes the view to change as if it was being viewed from that location (note: iViewer360 is a Dustin Forensics product). 

This was used to demonstrate what would be visible from a direct line of sight from the approximate eye height of the accused. As shown in the images, Cooper could have been seen from the driver’s position. 

In all, approximately 120 Gb of LASER and video data were introduced as evidence at trial.

The data files included:

The RAW scans

Processed project files

Video files

Still images of the 3D character

Panoramic image exports

Installation file for a 30 Day trial of the latest FARO Scene version used 

Fly through videos were created and presented to the Court as were live demonstrations of the captured data. The video content consisted of moving to predetermined locations within the scene as well as using video blending techniques to show transparent views of the vehicle’s interior. 

The live presentation of 3D data to the court was used to show the spatial relationship of the life-size male model of the child to the vehicle interior. A very large “Mondo Pad” by InFocus was used at trial to display all videos and 3D presentations to the court. This is critical as traditional methods of display are not always representative of how the data appears. The Mondo Pad also allows streaming of displayed information from an external device such as an iPad or other tablet. 

A 3D Laser scan was performed of the courtroom used for the trial. This was later used to lay the ground work for the introduction of the data. The jury could see the very room they had been seated in for approximately 4 weeks. Measurements were performed live as well as pre-measured artifacts that were in place during the scan capture. The result was mesmerizing to the jury as in most instances, this was their first exposure to this technology. 

Dustin Forensics introduced the technology to the jury and educated them as to the how data was captured and processed.  

GoPro videos were also captured by Dustin Forensics to indicate the path the defendant traveled the day of the event as well as the path he should have traveled if he would have gone to the daycare center.  

Software used for this case are as follows:

FARO Scene

3ds Max

After Effects

FARO Video Pro

iClone Character Creator 

David Dustin of Dustin Forensics was the last witness for the prosecution.

We were pleased to to be a part of the herculean effort from the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office to ensure justice was served for Cooper Harris.


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