Howard Kurtz: Cooper's new trial not due to 'technicality'

September 5, 2013 

Cooper’s new trial not due to technicality

Your Sept. 4 news story “New trial ordered for Cooper” mischaracterized the Court of Appeals’ reasoning in overturning Brad Cooper’s conviction and might mislead the public into believing that he will receive a new trial for a mere technicality. Your story asserted that the Court of Appeals decision hinged on issues of search and seizure. It did not. There was never any ruling about search and seizure. This wasn’t a case where appellate counsel argued that the police simply made some mistakes. Cooper did not win a new trial on a technicality.

Two eminently qualified experts were prepared to testify that the only substantive evidence against the defendant was planted on his computer. Lest there be any confusion as to the significance of that evidence, on June 1, 2011, the jury foreman told the N&O about the jury’s deliberations in a letter that said, “The (computer) evidence presented by Special Agents Johnson and Chappell (about the Google map search) drove the outcome on this case.”

Our experts would have identified evidence that the files on Cooper’s computer were planted and did not result from an actual Internet search performed by Cooper at the time alleged by the state. Our experts would have identified evidence that these files were placed on the computer after the fact to make it appear that Cooper searched for the cul-de-sac where his wife’s body was found prior to her going missing when he did not. This is the testimony that the judge never allowed the jury to hear. Your article left that out as well.

The Appellate Court decided the case on three grounds. First, the trial judge erred when he prevented a qualified defense expert from testifying that it was his opinion that the only evidence linking the defendant to the crime was planted on his computer merely because he does not call himself a computer forensics specialist.

Second, the judge further violated the defendant’s rights when, on insufficient legal and procedural grounds, he prevented another qualified computer expert from testifying that he, too, believed the only evidence linking the defendant to the crime was planted.

Third, the court decided that the judge prevented the defense from presenting a meaningful defense by allowing the state to hide behind national security when it came to disclosing even a single timestamp from a single test that would have proven definitively that the Google map search was planted.

Americans enjoy a fundamental constitutional right to present a meaningful defense at trial, and Cooper was prohibited from doing so. For that reason, the judges of the Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge and overturned the conviction.

Howard Kurtz

Kurtz & Blum, t rial counsel for Brad Cooper

Raleigh

The length limit was waived to allow a fuller response to the article.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service