NC Appeals Court hears arguments in Brad Cooper case

ablythe@newsobserver.comApril 9, 2013 

— Attorneys for Brad Cooper, the father of two who was convicted nearly two years ago of murdering his wife Nancy in their Cary home, went before a three-judge Court of Appeals panel Tuesday seeking to have his conviction overturned.

Ann Petersen, a Chapel Hill attorney representing Cooper, contended that rulings made at Cooper’s trial prohibited him from putting on his best defense.

The evidence in the Cooper case was largely circumstantial. Jurors said afterward that prosecutors won with computer evidence that defense lawyers tried to quash, in part because they argued that it was gathered illegally.

Wake County Judge Paul Gessner issued rulings that allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence of a Google search of the site where Nancy Cooper’s body was found.

Gessner also ruled against the defense’s attempt to classify two witnesses as forensics experts in an attempt to raise questions about evidence collected from a computer.

The defense maintains that Cooper’s computer was seized and searched illegally.

In the hearing Tuesday, the appeals court judges spent an hour listening to arguments and asking questions of their own about what qualifications should be necessary for someone to be considered an expert.

Attorneys representing the state disputed the claims that Cooper’s defense was weakened by Gessner’s rulings. They contend the computer evidence was seized legally and that Cooper could have called others to testify to raise doubt about the evidence.

They also argued that there was an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence that would have led the jury to the same verdict.

It could be weeks before the three-judge panel rules.

The murder trial was described by longtime courthouse officials as one of Wake County’s longest, with nearly 36 days of testimony and a note from the jury toward the end of the trial asking the judge to instruct the lawyers to use their time more judiciously so they could return to their lives.

For several weeks, prosecutors called numerous friends and family of Nancy Cooper to the witness stand to describe the crumbling relationship between her and Brad.

Nancy Cooper, the more outspoken of the two, had told many people that she wanted out of her marriage and planned to return to her native Canada with her two children.

Friends described Nancy Cooper as an emotionally battered wife, a former career woman in Canada who had to rely on her husband for her financial well-being because she did not have the necessary documents to work in this country.

Friends testified that her husband gave her an allowance but cut off her access to the couple’s bank accounts. Defense attorneys contended that Nancy Cooper spent beyond the family’s means and that her husband instituted financial controls to protect their assets.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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