NC Supreme Court will not review Brad Cooper case

ablythe@newsobserver.comJanuary 24, 2014 

— The N.C. Supreme Court will not take up the case of Brad Cooper, the father of two accused of killing his wife and dumping her body near their Cary home.

That removes the most recent barrier to a retrial for Cooper, the former Cisco employee whose 2011 trial ended with a murder conviction.

The N.C. Appeals Court overturned the conviction in September and ordered a new trial for the native Canadian accused of killing his wife, Nancy, in 2008.

Though the three-judge appellate panel issued a unanimous ruling in the fall, State Attorney General Roy Cooper sought review of their decision by the state’s highest court. Brad Cooper’s attorneys, in turn, asked that the state attorney general’s appeal for review be dismissed.

With little elaboration, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that it would not take up the case, and Brad Cooper’s motion to dismiss the appeal was allowed.

It was unclear Friday when a new trial will be scheduled.

The evidence in the Cooper 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 Map 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.

The appeals court judges noted that the “sole physical evidence linking” Brad Cooper to the homicide was the Google Map 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 had nearly 36 days of testimony and has been described by Wake County court officials as one of the county’s longest.

For several weeks, prosecutors called numerous friends and family 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 their 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; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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