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Dmitry’s Death and Miles Harrison’s Acquittal- part II, The American Reaction

If you are searching for general information about the case and the verdict please see my earlier overview post entitled No, no justice for Dmitry.

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This post is an update to an ongoing series of posts I have made about the death of Dmitry Yakolev/Chase Harrison and the agency that placed him, European Adoption Consultants (EAC). EAC is one of the largest international adoption agencies in the world and the top agency in Russia (and had been in Guatemala.)

Russian law requires officials be kept up to date by the placing agencies of the disposition of the children placed through them with regular updates for the first three years. In the aftermath of Dmitry’s death, the Russian Federation Ministry of Education and Science opened an investigation into EAC for their apparent failure to report his death immediately.

Dmitry is the the second Russian child EAC had placed who died apparently as a result of actions by their adopters. Logan Higgenbotham was killed by her adoptive mother in 1988. You can read my previous posts about Dmitry and EAC by clicking here (read from bottom to top, as entries are in reverse chronological order.)


Unlike the Russian response, Americans are reacting very differently, be that in American media reports, or in comment threads.

First and foremost, the American audience fails to understand the important responsibilities an adoptive couple take on when they sign on to adopting a child. Perhaps the primary difference between a child in an adoptive situation and children born to their parents is that adoptive families are on some level (allegedly at least) vetted. They have agreed to take on the task of raising a child that is not biologically their own. They have had to prove that they will make “fit” parents to the child that will eventually come to be placed with them. When they sign the adoption papers, they have intentionally taken on the responsibility for that child.

Add in the international adoption component, in the case of Russian adoptees, they retain their Russian citizenship, and what you have is essentially, an American couple that has jumped through enough hoops as to agree to take on not only raising a child who is not their own flesh and blood, but is additionally a citizen of another country. This carries with it many responsibilities, above and beyond what biological parents face. Be that reporting obligations back to the country of origin, or obligations to be attentive, and to provide safety and security. Adoptive parents sign their names to promises pertaining to the ongoing disposition and welfare of the child they are adopting.

This is the key that differentiates Dmitry’s death from that of any of the number of sad stories wherein American families lose track of their kids and leave them to roast to death in the back seats of cars in the summertime.

The Harrisons had undergone a process of establishing them as “fit” parents, and taken on the responsibility of raising a Russian child. They entered into such intentionally and made the case for their “worthiness” to take Dmitiry.

This case then, is inherently about adoption. And the responsibilities adoptive parents take on not only in relation to the child, and the agency, but in international adoption where citizenship is maintained, to that country of origin.

Quoting Marley again:

He was a Russian citizen who died of neglect (accidental or not) at the hands of a person who was deemed “responsible” enough to adopt someone else’s child by the Russian and US governments and a prominent …adoption agency.

In light of the additional ongoing background history of Russian adoptees dying as a result of actions of their American adopters (see Marley’s Forever Family, Forever Dead case profiles on her memoriam blog for Russian adoptees abused and murdered by their forever families- NIKTO NE ZABYT — NICHTO NE ZABYTO.) Dmitry’s death did not take place in a vacuum, it took place amidst a broader history of Russian adoptees dying in America and previous calls for a full moratorium on American adoptions. Instead of Russia closing to American adopters, it instituted a series of restrictions in an attempt to maintain information relating to the disposition of Russian adoptees in America available back to the country of origin.

After Dmitry’s death European Adoption Consultants, the agency responsible for placing Dmitry with the Harrisons failed to live up to its obligation to report his death. Media reports say the Russians learned of his death from the newspapers.

The broader background and historical context his death occurred within, as well as the agency obligations have been given little to no attention in the American media reports in the aftermath. While American papers are mentioning the Russians’ displeasure at the verdict, they are either unaware of or overlooking the broader issues and pre-existing history.

Instead, much of the media and the comments from the general public have focused upon how leaving kids in hot cars is not an uncommon occurrence. Many commenters fail to see the inherent connection between Dmitry’s death and the obligations entailed in adopting at all, going so far as to say this case is to them, unrelated to adoption. (Marely’s comment threads are also littered with such.)

None-the-less, there is nothing about this that is not inherently interwoven with adoption, specifically international adoption. Dmitry’s death was an international incident from the moment information about it first surfaced.

I urge readers to read the full articles I’ve pulled mere quotes from below, and to additionally explore comment threads on the articles where available.


I’ll begin with this article from the Loudoun Times-Mirror- Not guilty verdict of Purcellville man could become international incident. It was originally written Dec. 18th, but has been updated today. It’s actually one of the better articles, but for the problematic premise the articles rests upon.

As I wrote in part I, yesterday’s blog post:

…while the American media seems to be treating the trial outcome as sparking an international incident (and many of them do not understand that Dmitry’s death is part of a much broader pattern,) the Russians, like many of us here in “Adoptionland” always understood, it was Dmitry’s death itself that was the international incident. Everything thereafter is just the consequences, blowback, and damage control in the aftermath thereof.

Thereby the headline and premise “…could become international incident” misses the mark. Otherwise the article is better than most.

A recent ruling made by a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge is developing into a potential international incident.

In this article, we find the cost of Dmitry’s adoption and details of his citizenship:

The child, originally named Dmitry Yakolev and later re-named Chase Harrison, was adopted from Russia at a cost to the Harrisons of about $80,000. At the time of his death the toddler was still a Russian citizen, according to the Russian Embassy.

“He would have remained a Russian citizen until he reached legal age, at which time he could renounce his citizenship if he chose,” said Yevgeniy Khorishko, press secretary for the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. “It is just awful that the person who killed this child has been pardoned,” Khorishko added.


On Dec. 18, Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned Harrison’s acquittal in an official statement.

“We are deeply angered by the verdict of the Fairfax Circuit Court in Virginia. We consider it to be repulsive and unprecedented, even if in this case — unlike in others — it was criminal negligence that led to a tragic outcome, rather than deliberate ill-treatment. The decision of a judge, who did not see the crime in Harrison’s actions and released him without any penalty, goes beyond any legal and moral framework,” it stated.


On Dec. 17, Ney ruled that although Harrison was “plainly negligent,” he did not display “negligence so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a callous disregard for human life,” one of the standards in defining an involuntary manslaughter charge in Virginia.

And finally we come to what may have been the actual reason Dmitry ultimately died, Miles Harrison was preoccupied and simply not thinking about Dmitry that morning. Harrison had been on the cell phone over and over on his drive in to work, making or receiving 13 phone calls during the drive in to work during which he drove right past the exit for Dmitry’s daycare. Judge Ney went so far as to say “that based on court testimony, Harrison was not himself on july 8th.” Clearly he was preoccupied, leaving Dmitry in the car unattended already once before that morning as he dropped off his dry cleaning.

Harrison has said that he was deeply concerned that day about a contract that his office was negotiating with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The contract was the largest government contract that his company, Project Solutions Group in Herndon, had ever pursued.

In court, Ney said that Harrison was “clueless” and “oblivious” that the child had been left in the vehicle, and that Harrison believed him to be at a day-care facility in Ashburn.

Ney called that belief “tragic and erroneous” but called Harrison a “dutiful and devoted father” and said that “the only atonement can take place in his heart and soul.” He added that “no finding of involuntary manslaughter will bring this child back to life.”

But Russian officials are demanding that America toughen its policies toward adopted children’s rights and are outraged with the incident.

“People in Moscow are now thinking about changing the rules of adoption for Russian children if the country they go to cannot provide protection for them, and the person who kills them is let go as if he is innocent,” Khorishko told the Times.

Next I’ll back up date and pull a story from the DC Examiner dated December 17th, Father acquitted of manslaughter in July death of adopted toddler, in which we find the first mention I’ve found of Miles Harrison’s behavior the evening of the death, with mentions of both his own culpability and “god” taken from the court documents:

At about 5 p.m., when a co-worker told Harrison that Chase was in the SUV, he ran from his work desk to the parking lot, threw open the car door and tried to revive his son. Chase was a Russian-born child who had been adopted by Harrison and his wife, Carol, only three months earlier.

That evening at the hospital, a Fairfax County detective and hospital employees overheard Harrison calling out with remorse.

“I want my son. I left my son, I left him in the car. Look at what I did. I left him in the car,” Harrison could be heard saying, according to court documents. “I can’t live like this. How did this happen. … God take me. He should not have taken my son.”

Prosecutors argued that Harrison might not have wanted to harm his son but he wasn’t willing to take on the responsibilities of being a father.

In another piece from the 17th,on WJLA, the local ABC affiliate, we find a few brief statements from Harrison’s sister Jane Kershner and Harrison’s lawyer Peter Greenspun’s remarkable comment the “callousness” standard, on see Father Not Guilty in Son’s Death in Hot SUV:

“The facts do not satisfy the standard imposed,” said Judge Ney, calling Harrison “oblivious” and “plainly negligent”. But the judge said Harrison was without “callous disregard for human life.”

“There was not a callousness in his actions which is what the law requires,” Peter Greenspun, Harrison’s defense attorney, said.

His sister, Jane Kershner, spoke for the family.

“It’s time for our family to move on to the grieving for my nephew and their son,” she said. “He was a happy and loving wonderful little boy. He was lucky enough to have wonderful parents who were going to help him grow and become, you know, more than he already was.”

The family physician was another of the trial witnesses:

Other character witnesses, including the family physician, also testified on Harrison’s behalf, describing the family as very attentive to their son.

“I think the family was a very engaged family, very interested in the care of the child and we’re involved and very active throughout the whole adoption process,” Dr. Patrick Mason, the family physician, said. “They seemed to be very engaged in the child’s care.”

Be sure to watch the video connected to this piece as well.

In this piece Purcellville Man Acquitted In Death of Son in Car there are further quotes from Miles Harrison’s sister. She mentions Harrison having been “charged almost immediately after the July 8 incident” which clearly, if you read through my timeline of how Harrison being served the warrant was actually delayed seems quite the stretch:

A family friend exclaimed, “Thank God,” as Harrison struggled to catch his breath upon hearing the verdict.

Harrison, 49, of Purcellville, declined to comment afterward. But his family said he and his wife, Carol, could now grieve the loss of Chase, a process that had been delayed because Harrison was charged almost immediately after the July 8 incident.

Chase “was a happy, loving and wonderful child,” said Jane Kershner, Harrison’s sister, “and he was lucky enough to have wonderful parents.

Then there’s this stunner of a statement:

For having waited so long to become a father, Miles jumped in with both feet and became the best father I’ve seen.

The same article goes into Dmitry’s arrival in America and being placed at a local KinderCare daycare which was by no means any kind of specialized program dealing with kids who had spent their infancy in Russian orphanages:

After three arduous trips to Russia, the Harrisons brought Chase home to Loudoun on March 21. The toddler was developmentally delayed from having spent much of his first 18 months in an orphanage, and Kershner testified that she helped the family locate a day-care center in Ashburn that would help him catch up. He started there in late June.

This is important, as it means Dmitry had only been attending daycare for what may have been a matter of weeks, between “late June” and July 8th.

The article details Harrison leaving Dmitry in the car during the trip to the dry cleaner:

Harrison testified that on July 8, he dressed Chase in a T-shirt and shorts, put sunscreen on him and strapped him in the rear car seat of his GMC Yukon. Harrison said he stopped at a dry cleaner in Purcellville, leaving Chase in the vehicle, then drove to Herndon. He had made or received 13 calls on his cellphone and drove past the exit for Chase’s day care, focused on a large work project and problems with employees.

It also may help clarify the conflicting media reports that Harrison during his initial “collapse” was either having a reaction to the overwhelming circumstances or had had a heart attack:

Harrison, overwhelmed with grief, was briefly hospitalized when police feared he was having a heart attack.

Finally, we get some insight into the legal reasoning of both the prosecutor and the judge:

Prosecutors declined to offer Harrison a plea to a lesser charge, and Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Katherine E. Stott said parents should be held to a higher standard because they hold a child’s life in their hands. “The fact that he disregarded his duties,” Stott said, “when these circumstances are likely to cause injury of death, shows callous disregard.”

In his ruling, Ney cited a 1930 Virginia Supreme Court decision that a person “who accidentally kills another, even though he may be chargeable with some actionable negligence, is not guilty of a crime, unless his negligence is so gross and culpable as to indicate a callous disregard of human life and of the probable consequences of his act.”

Also see the long comment thread attached to the article.

Washington Post’s Potomac Confidential- Washington’s Hour of Talk Power (transcript) Dec 18th- “Nay of the Day”

So let’s get this straight: A guy leaves his 21-month-old baby in a steaming hot car for an entire day and the kid dies and some judge decrees that this is not gross negligence and does not reflect a callous disregard for human life?

If the decision in the Miles Harrison case is not the Nay of the Day, then please tell me what is. I don’t doubt that the man loved his child or that he feels unspeakably awful about what he did or that he is otherwise in many ways a fine person (though I have severe doubts about his qualifications for parenthood), but if the law doesn’t consider his actions criminal negligence, then the term doesn’t have much meaning.

And finally this commentary from today’s Washington Post by Marc Fisher, Why Was Father Who Killed Son In Car Acquitted?

He literally forgot what he had promised to do when he entered the role of father. If that’s not callous disregard, what is?

See the comment thread following the piece as well.

One Response to “Dmitry’s Death and Miles Harrison’s Acquittal- part II, The American Reaction”

  1. Vadym Rud Says:

    This judge is a piece of shit. Period. Shame on all of us.

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