RALEIGH — While Brad Cooper was being processed as one of the state prison system's 41,292 inmates Friday, police, lawyers and others began a processing of their own - trying to figure out what worked and what didn't in a murder case that fascinated many in the Triangle and Canada.
The 10 women and two men who found Cooper guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2008 strangulation death of his wife, Nancy, were not ready to talk publicly about how they reached their verdict. Some wanted time to take a step back from the county's most protracted trial in recent history.
Howard Kurtz, one of Cooper's attorneys, tried to clarify why, when he was making claims of total innocence, he did not put his client on the stand.
The jury heard Brad Cooper, under oath in a videotaped interview from a 2008 custody dispute over his children, answer questions about his wife's disappearance, his extramarital affair, his crumbling marriage and much more.
But the jury never heard him testify about a Google map satellite image in his laptop that linked him to the crime scene. They never heard him explain why he didn't call his in-laws or parents after his wife was reported missing.
"There would have been little more he could have added," Kurtz said about Brad Cooper not taking the stand.
Joseph B. Cheshire V, a Raleigh lawyer who has defended more than 35 people accused of murder, said he has been successful in cases where he did not put his client on the stand, but in those situations he was relying on the weaknesses of the state's case and reasonable doubt.
"I believe if you're making the active statement that your client is innocent, it is almost mandatory that they testify," Cheshire said. "The jury needs to hear them say it. They've got to have them on the stand, looking at them and say, 'I did not do it.' And they've got to survive cross-examination."
Kurtz, however, stands by his strategy.
He also said some people misinterpreted a key piece of his defense.
They wondered how Kurtz could ask jurors to believe that the same Cary police department that mistakenly erased Nancy Cooper's cellphone of all its data was savvy enough to have planted evidence in Brad Cooper's laptop.
Kurtz clarified that he did not think Nancy Cooper's phone was wiped clean by a bumbling detective.
"I believe it was intentional," he said.
On Friday, Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore stood behind her officers, saying she never doubted their integrity. She acknowledged, though, that the department erred during its investigation.
"Did we make some mistakes in the investigation? Absolutely," Bazemore said. "Our officers, our detectives are humans. We admitted those mistakes; we did what we could to correct them."
The erasure of Nancy Cooper's phone was the most discussed mistake committed by the department, she said. But that error, she added, was not significant enough to derail the case.
The chief denied outright the implication that her officers tampered with computer evidence or ignored leads.
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