RALEIGH — RALEIGH -- The jury that wrote a pointed note last week to the judge presiding over the Brad Cooper trial, expressing weariness and their wishes to get back to their lives, sent a strong signal Tuesday that they planned to take their job seriously.
Minutes after retreating to the jury room, with instructions to begin deliberations on one of Wake County's most protracted murder trials, a rap sounded at the door.
The 10 men and two women, who will decide whether Cooper, 37, is guilty or not guilty of killing his wife Nancy in July 2008, had another note for the judge.
They wanted a 2008 calendar, a list of all witnesses from the seven weeks of testimony, an evidence log and a laptop - an item they told the bailiff could be stricken from their request.
Judge Paul Gessner consulted with the lawyers who tried earlier in the day to sway the jury with vehement closing arguments. The evidence log included notes on items withheld from jurors. The witness list raised similar issues.
Gessner provided the bailiff with an easel pad and calendar to help them in their deliberations over whether Brad Cooper is a cold-hearted killer or victim of a rush to bad judgment.
The defense, in their two-hour final arguments, laid out a blistering attack on Cary police. Not only did Cooper's attorneys accuse investigators of ignoring details that might have led them to a different suspect, they also alleged tampering with computer evidence.
Prosecutors, who got the last word with the jury, countered that their case was not rooted in gossip from Cary cliques or a tainted police investigation. Theirs was a case of domestic violence, they argued, based on facts - noting Google satellite images of the crime scene found on the defendant's computer as a key evidence.
After 30 minutes behind closed doors on Tuesday, jurors will resume deliberations this morning in a case that has gripped the Triangle and Canada, the homeland of Brad and Nancy Cooper.
Brad Cooper's parents have been at the trial, sitting behind their elder son.
Nancy Cooper's parents and her twin sister have sat behind the prosecutors' table, smiling at memories of the vivacious mother of two and dabbing at tears and sobbing at unpleasant thoughts.
The trial has included much testimony about Brad and Nancy Cooper's troubled marriage. Many witnesses talked about trysts among neighbors in the Cary subdivision where the Coopers moved during the dot-com boom.
They described Nancy Cooper as an energetic extrovert, a vivacious stay-at-home mom who shared intimate details of her life with many. Brad Cooper, many witnesses said, was an introvert, a man who kept his feelings to himself.
It was Nancy Cooper's friends, who July 12, 2008, called Cary police to report her missing and who, defense attorneys claim, turned the investigative focus to Brad Cooper early.
"This was never really an investigation at all," defense attorney Howard Kurtz told the jury during closing arguments. "It was the beginning of a prosecution. ... The outcome here was predetermined."
Kurtz argued that Cary police were bent on distortions and inaccuracies, on breaking rules and disregarding evidence.
Kurtz ticked off a list of moments in the lengthy trial he considered the most irrelevant and time-wasting: a 2001 photo of a woman in a bikini; questions to a pest exterminator about his knowledge of Brad Cooper's extramarital affair; testimony about how the ability to hold a tennis racket might indicate an ability to strangle someone.
He dismissed satellite photos of the crime scene stored on Cooper's laptop computer before the murder, pointing out that the laptop remained on for 27 hours after being taken into police custody. He suggested tampering, but also told the jury that the evidence made no logical sense.
"If you know where it is that you intend to drop a body, you don't search on a Google map to find a spot," he said. "If you don't know where it is that you intend to drop a body, you look around."
Kurtz reminded jurors about a Cary detective who testified that he tried to pull information from Nancy Cooper's BlackBerry phone, despite knowing little about cellphones, and accidentally erased its contents.
"There is no legitimate explanation for destruction of evidence in a homicide case," Kurtz said.
The Cary Police Department had an agenda, Kurtz added. "They wanted desperately to show the citizens that their town is safe," he said. "They would have you act with your emotion rather than your intellect."
Robert Trenkle, a defense attorney who is often given high marks by juries after trials, highlighted all the testimony he thought should give jurors reasonable doubt. Tire tracks and footprints from the crime scene were never processed. No fibers or other physical evidence from the crime scene provided a link to the Cooper home. An entomologist, who testified for the prosecution, initially put Nancy Cooper's time of death in the morning of July 11, but he shifted his findings to July 12 after prosecutors pointed out that Nancy Cooper had been seen by many at a neighborhood cookout on the evening of July 11. Also, information from the autopsy report that showed her stomach to be empty of food though she had been seen eating ribs, avocado salad and cake hours before prosecutors contend she was killed.
Prosecutors urged jurors to take a step back and consider all the evidence.
Boz Zellinger, an assistant district attorney, talked about cellphone calls and computer searches - focusing on evidence that drew perhaps the most attention during the weeks of testimony: the satellite images of the crime scene found on Cooper's laptop with a time stamp before the murder.
"Fact: The defendant Googled where he was going to plant his wife's body," said Zellinger. "Fact: The defendant repeatedly lied to police."
Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings pointed to Cooper's behavior - missing her memorials, avoiding her parents and not answering his phone in the hours after she went missing.
"If your spouse was missing, would you say to police, 'I don't want to talk to you anymore'?" Cummings asked.
At the end of the prosecution's case, Cummings held his hand to his throat for three minutes, mimicking the time it would have taken to strangle the victim.
Nancy Cooper's mother sobbed audibly, as did some of her friends.
Cummings walked slowly across the courtroom in dramatic pause.
"It's only one minute," Cummings said after a long silence.
He was quiet again.
"He's still got to hold it for two more minutes until she's dead."
He waited another minute. Then another.
"Now she's dead."
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