Cooper trial was ordeal for jury

Next big case may be affected

staff writerJune 2, 2011 

— The foreman of the jury that convicted Brad Cooper of murder said Wednesday that it can be disconcerting to sit through a trial for weeks, or in his case almost two months, and hear troubling testimony that you must not discuss with others.

Until this week, Andy Gilbert has declined requests for details of how the jury arrived at the guilty verdict in the Cooper trial last month.

On Wednesday, Juror No. 7, as the foreman was referred to during the protracted murder trial, offered some insight into the decision.

His comments came as the Jason Young case, a murder trial with many similarities to the Cooper case, is getting under way in Wake County Superior Court.

Prosecutors in the Young case spent much of Wednesday delving into the personal lives of the men and women who could end up in the jury box in that case, asking whether their lives had ever been affected by domestic violence or infidelity. Young, 37, is accused of murdering his wife, Michelle, in 2006, when she was pregnant.

Although it could be several days before prosecutors and defense attorneys settle on the 12 jurors to decide Young's fate, Gilbert said those selected could be in for an emotionally draining experience.

In the Cooper case, the two men and 10 women heard weeks and weeks of testimony about extramarital trysts in the Cary suburbs, BMWs, big houses, six-figure salaries, the Triangle's dot-com boom and neighborhood parties where furtive, flirtatious glances developed into duplicitous relationships.

Gilbert said he wondered early in the trial why there was so much of that testimony. But in the end, he said, "it became part of the evidence that was helpful at arriving at a decision."

Gilbert said the computer evidence provided a defining moment for him.

After weeks of testimony about Cooper's crumbling marriage, prosecutors brought in special agents who testified about a Google map image that tied the defendant to the scene where his wife's body was found. Deep inside a laptop that Cooper used at work were files that, when pieced together, showed a satellite image of the remote site.

"The testimony of the special agents was key and pivotal in that case," Gilbert said.

But until the 11 others who helped decide Cooper's fate are ready to talk as a group, Gilbert would not go into great detail about what went on in the jury deliberation room.

Piles of notebooks

On the first day of deliberations, when all 12 could finally talk among themselves about the case, Gilbert said no one had decided whether Cooper was innocent or guilty of first- or second-degree murder.

The 12 jurors, as a group, had taken copious notes. Gilbert said he filled eight notebooks with details from the trial. Over the next day and a half, the jurors went methodically through the judge's instructions and the law, trying to sort through any questions.

Lunch time on the day they rendered their verdict was tense, Gilbert said.

The gravity of their duty weighed on them, he said.

But they were unanimous in their verdict.

Through the experience, the jurors and the four women selected as alternates have formed a bond. They have been in contact with each other over the ensuing weeks.

Now they're fielding requests from the prosecutors, defense attorneys and others looking for feedback on the trial.

With testimony in the Young trial about to get under way, the lawyers hoped to glean what worked and what did not.

Gilbert said if he offers insight to one side, he's willing to give the other equal time.

"We weren't going into this saying, 'I'm ultimately going to pick a side,'" Gilbert said. "We came into this neutral, and we want to leave it neutral."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys involved with the Young case have asked as much of the men and women in the pool of possible jurors in that case.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4948

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