Local News

Media appeal questions handling of Cooper warrants

Posted November 26, 2008

The parent companies of WRAL and the Raleigh News & Observer filed an appeal Wednesday questioning the reasoning behind sealed search warrants in a high-profile criminal investigation.

Three search warrants related to the investigation of the murder of Nancy Cooper were ordered sealed by Judge Donald Stephens in July. Stephens upheld his decision again in August, and allowed the warrants to remain sealed until their eventual release Sept. 2.

The media outlets argued in a brief filed Wednesday that the judge did not follow established procedures in determining whether to seal the warrants. The brief states that the Cooper warrants did not meet the standards required by law to be sealed.

According to the brief:

  1. The court relied on speculation about possible harm the release of warrants might have on the criminal investigation, rather than asking for written support for that conclusion.
  2. Law enforcement had no compelling reason to ask that the warrants be sealed. In fact, the request to seal was made before the searches were executed, before law enforcement knew what the search would yield.
  3. The order to seal was not narrow enough in scope or duration.
  4. The court did not consider, as is required, allowing some of the information in the warrants to be made public.

The brief notes that despite the subsequent release of the warrants, the questions raised by the appeal about procedures and standards remain.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Burger Dec 1, 2008

    Seriously, I want to know the what and how just as soon as the media can find out, but let the criminal justice system do the work first. If the story played out in the media, the defense will have ground for it to not get played in the courtroom. I will make this promise to the N&O and WRAL. I will read what you both have to say, probably within the same hour, and will ignore the ads just like always. Stay out of the courts.

  • something2say Nov 28, 2008

    I too don't get why the media thinks they need access to everything? I have followed the cases but as the public I would rather know that the PD is doing their job correctly, and getting the evidence they need and arresting the right person. If the media prevents that from happening because they put details out there then keep the documents sealed. I'd hate to see cases get thrown out or have to move the cases because of excessive media coverage!

  • Eduardo1 Nov 28, 2008

    thought..I could not have said it myself. I am the public, and I do not feel any great need to know anything that a Judge feels is not necessary to know. Would is to be gained by the knowledge? Nothing! Let the law run its course, let the case go to trial, let a JURY decide the fate of the accused, based upon the EVIDENCE. NEED TO KNOW!

  • anonemoose Nov 27, 2008

    They are PUBLIC RECORD. Until that changes, WRAL, you and I can go look at them, and get copies. You have to remember, when these laws were passed, the internet, and the 24 hour news cycle didn't exist. When WRAL or one of it's brothers screws up a major case by releasing information, you can bet the laws will be changed at the next meeting of the elected thugs in Raleigh, and that will be cited in every motion to seal papers.

  • thought Nov 27, 2008

    The media does not need to know everything - There si a case pending- so you don't get first dibbs on it. I can't believe the media is willing to possibly ruin a case for ratings. This is why soem cases probably get thrown out - Let the law do it's job and find something else to do. This site is seems too involcved in this case for some reason.