Prosecutors want NC Supreme Court to review Brad Cooper case

ablythe@newsobserver.comSeptember 11, 2013 


Brad Cooper during his trial for the murder of his wife Nancy Cooper.

TAKAAKI IWABU — 2011 News & Observer file photo Buy Photo

— Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that he will petition the state Supreme Court to review the recent N.C. Court of Appeals decision ordering a new trial for Brad Cooper.

Brad Cooper, 39, a former Cisco employee, was convicted in May 2011 of murdering his wife, Nancy Cooper, and dumping her body several miles from their Cary home.

The evidence in the case was largely circumstantial. Jurors said afterward that prosecutors won with computer evidence that defense lawyers tried to quash.

The defense argued that the police investigation of Nancy Cooper’s death in July 2008 was inept. They had hoped to argue before the jury that the crucial computer evidence could have been tampered with and perhaps planted by investigators – arguments that they planned to introduce through their own expert witnesses.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence of a Google Maps search of the site where Nancy Cooper’s body had been found. Prosecutors argued that the map search and time stamps associated with it showed that Brad Cooper had searched for a site to dump his wife’s body.

The defense team, however, raised questions about the validity of the time stamps on the laptop files.

Gessner ruled against the defense’s attempt to classify two witnesses as forensics experts to raise questions about the computer evidence.

In their ruling last week, the appeals court judges noted that the “sole physical evidence linking” Brad Cooper to the homicide was the Google Maps search. “Absent this evidence, the evidence connecting Defendant to this crime was primarily potential motive, opportunity, and testimony of suspicious behavior,” the ruling said.

Further, the appeals court panel added that “whether the error was constitutional or not,” failure to let Brad Cooper use his experts at trial was a key error that warranted a new trial.

“(T)here is a reasonable possibility that, had the error in question not been committed, a different result would have been reached at the trial out of which the appeal arises,” the ruling stated.

Brad Cooper maintained at trial that he was not guilty of first-degree murder. He told Cary investigators that his wife went jogging and never returned home.

The murder trial in spring 2011 – nearly 36 days of testimony – has been described by Wake court officials as one of the county’s longest.

Deteriorating marriage

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

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. They testified that her husband had given her an allowance but then he 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.

Cooper has been incarcerated in state prison since the jury verdict.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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