Fatal Distraction Image

Fatal Distraction

By Chris Salce | December 8, 2021

Crimes in which someone dies are always tough to hear, but they are much more horrific when involving children. Susan Morgan Cooper’s Fatal Distraction centers on a very unfortunate incident that resulted in a child’s death in which the father was found guilty. The documentary focuses on the case and whether or not the father is at fault for the death of his child.

On June 18, 2014, Justin Ross Harris was on his way to work. Harris was in the office for a full shift and had planned to go home just like any other day. However, when he was getting into his car at the end of the workday, he was horrified – his infant son, Cooper, was dead. Harris had forgotten to drop off his 22-month-old son at daycare. The community initially thought it was a tragic accident until his then-wife, Leanna Cooper, stated that she had a fear that either her husband or herself would forget Cooper in the car one day. The authorities thought it was an odd comment and decided to go deeper into that fear. The comment sparked outrage once the media got a hold of it and everyone seemed to think the accident was instead a murder.

Harris had forgotten to drop off his 22-month-old son at daycare.”

Fatal Distraction, deriving its name from an article about the tragic incident, takes footage from the trial and interviews those involved with the case, except for Justin Ross Harris, who is in prison. The filmmaker attempts to argue that Harris is not responsible for the death of his son. Instead, the authorities dug into his personal life to find a motive for murder. They discovered that Harris had extramarital relations with other women who were not his wife. This was all news to Leanna Cooper as she had thought Harris was faithful. But even in finding out about the other women, she believed that he was innocent and saw the death of Cooper as accidental.

The film also brings awareness to the Hot Cars Act. The potential law hopes of having some sort of device installed in cars that will notify parents if a child is still in a car. One man pushing for this law is Miles Harrison, a father that accidentally left his son, Chase, in a hot car. Harrison’s heartbreaking story is told, as are others involved in a child dying of heatstroke. These tales are hard to listen to, especially Nicole Engler’s, who unfortunately had a similar incident. I found myself getting quite emotional throughout.

With that being said, I have heard stories similar to Cooper’s in the news over the years, and it always baffles me how someone can accidentally leave a child in a car. But, sadly, these accidents occur fairly often. Well, the documentary presents scientific and psychological evidence that a person’s brain can be so used to doing something by habit that it fails to create awareness when it comes to a new element becoming involved.

If anything positive comes out of Fatal Distraction, I hope it is that the Hot Cars Act will be passed somehow.

Fatal Distraction (2021)

Directed and Written: Susan Morgan Cooper

Starring: Justin Ross Harris, Leanna Taylor, Maddox Kilgore, Nicole Engler, Gene Weingarten, Miles Harrison, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Fatal Distraction Image

"…I hope...that the Hot Cars Act will be passed..."

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  1. Lala Ruhil says:

    The Harris case bears little to no resemblance to instances in which a child is *genuinely* left behind in a hot car by a distracted parent or caregiver. Did the filmmaker even watch the trial? I’ve watched it at least a dozen times, and the evidence of a deliberate, intentional, calculated murder is overwhelming. It sounds to me as though the Harris family & Ross’s groupies got to this filmmaker. Would not be surprised if it were being funded by someone with an agenda.

    The extramarital affairs/sexting/talking to other women could all be omitted from evidence, as far as I’m concerned, and the facts of the case would convict Harris again & again. That car seat was positioned such that Cooper’s head was mere inches from Harris’s. The drive from the Chick Fil A to Harris’s workplace is less than a mile & mere minutes; plus, there is a tricky u-turn involved, & a stoplight very close by. A driver must decide within mere *seconds* of leaving that fast food parking lot which lane they will choose in order to turn left, ( toward Cooper’s daycare), or straight, (to Harris’s workplace.) Harris had just strapped Cooper into his (too small, uncomfortably tight-fitting) car safety seat. He would have had to forgotten his wide awake child within only a few seconds, which is ridiculous. There is so much more, so much anomalous behavior on the part of Harris that particular day. And, so much more evidence. He’s guilty of what is a heinous, horrific, tortuous cold & calculated murder.

    Hard pass on this “masterpiece.” 🙄 The filmmaker one day just might learn that journalistic ethics & integrity are more important than sucking up to people with an agenda.

    • Mary A Moody says:

      “The extramarital affairs/sexting/talking to other women could all be omitted from evidence, as far as I’m concerned, and the facts of the case would convict Harris again & again.”
      Interesting, Lala. What’s your take on Ross Harris’ parking spot at work that day? Do you believe it’s consistent with a plan to murder his son?

    • Susan Morgan Cooper says:

      Forgive me, but I am the filmmaker and I have spent 8 long years researching the issue of child heatstroke deaths. In fact, this is my second film on the subject. Every one of the parents that this tragedy has happened to, a lot of whom I have got to know, feel that the events leading to the accident in JRH’s case are very similar to their own. A change in routine causes a memory lapse and the parent is convinced that they have dropped their child off at daycare. Some parents are so convinced that they drive to daycare to pick up their child with the dead child in their car.

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