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NC Appeals Court orders new trial for Brad Cooper

Posted September 3, 2013

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— The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered a new murder trial for a Cary man convicted more than two years ago of strangling his wife, who he says went jogging one Saturday morning and never returned home.

Nancy Cooper with family Nancy Cooper murder case

Brad Cooper, 39, is serving a life prison sentence for first-degree murder in the July 2008 death of Nancy Cooper, whose body was found in a drainage ditch in a cul-de-sac of an undeveloped subdivision near their home.

The appeal of his May 2011 conviction centered on rulings that Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner made regarding a Google Maps search of the site where Nancy Cooper's body was found – the only concrete evidence linking Brad Cooper to the crime.

State witnesses testified during the trial that the search was performed the day before she disappeared, but defense attorneys contended that someone tampered with the computer.

The Appeals Court's decision was unanimous.

"The trial court did err in limiting (Jay) Ward's testimony in such a manner that prevented him from testifying concerning data retrieved from the laptop, including the Google Maps files," the three-member panel said in its 56-page ruling.

Ward was a network security professional but was found by the trial court not to be qualified as a forensics computer analyst. Another expert witness for the defense, Giovanni Masucci, also wasn't allowed to testify about the files, partly because the judge found that his name was not on a potential witness list, as required by law.

"The Google Map files recovered from the defendant's laptop were perhaps the most important pieces of evidence admitted in this trial," the appeals court said. "We hold that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding Ward from testifying, relying on the state's own evidence, to his opinion that the Google Maps files recovered from the defendant's laptop had been tampered with."

Gessner said Tuesday morning, when contacted by WRAL News, that he had not had a chance to fully read the Appeals Court ruling, "but I respect the ruling of the court and have no further comment."

Brad Cooper's trial attorney, Howard Kurtz, welcomed the ruling, saying he was "thrilled" that his client will get another day in court.

"It's hard to be completely happy when something like this happens, because we shouldn't have had to have gone through an appeal," Kurtz said. "The evidence that drove the conviction was the map. So the fact that I had not only one but two witnesses prepared to say that these maps were planted on that computer would have made all the difference in the world."

Prosecutors argued that Brad Cooper planned his wife's murder and killed her after she returned home from a neighborhood party in the early hours of July 12, 2008.

Witnesses said the Coopers, who moved to Cary from Canada, were in the process of separating and that Nancy Cooper wanted to move back to Canada with their two young children.

Defense attorneys argued that Nancy Cooper went jogging on the morning of her death and never returned home.

The investigation into her death was marred by "dishonest" and "inept" police work, they said, alleging that investigators never looked beyond Brad Cooper as a suspect.

"We were certainly disappointed with the court's decision," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Tuesday. "We'll talk with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office about it and see whether or not we should seek further review."

If the state decides not to appeal the ruling or the Supreme Court either upholds the decision or declines to hear the case, it would wind up back in Superior Court.

Prosecutors would then decide whether to try the case again, reach a plea agreement or decide not to re-try the case.

More than 100 witnesses testified during Brad Coopers' 10-week murder trial, which is the longest non-capital murder case to be tried in Wake County.

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  • dollibug Sep 6, 2013

    ****The paternity thing makes no sense to me. The testimony from trial 1 is that Nancy told that guy the child was not his when she was pregnant and that was the end of it. Without a DNA test this guy wouldn't know if he was the father and neither would Nancy.

    BUT no one knows what happened right before the murder.

  • ConservativeVoter Sep 5, 2013

    Whether or not you believe Brad Cooper is innocent or guilty.

    The key thing is that he didn't get a fair trial per the court of appeals.

    Judge Gessner kept a defense expert from testifying on Brad Cooper's behalf that the Court of Appeals said was qualified to offer testimony on Google maps.

    The google maps was the only physical evidence offered besides rumors, innuendos, and hearsay from the Cary busybodies.

    CPD wiped Nancy's cell phone and didn't reveal this until just after AT&T purged it's records for that time period. The call log and texts would have offered a lot of evidence towards who killed Nancy.

    While Brad's laptop was in the possession of CPD in a secure evidence locker with the battery removed, the laptop received windows updates.

    This means that someone put the battery in the laptop, powered up the laptop, and connected the laptop to the internet.

    What else could have happened to the laptop while the laptop was connected to the internet.

  • Deb1003 Sep 5, 2013

    In decisive...so you believe the man having an affair w/ Nancy Cooper said those things? I've questioned why he never! came forward to indicate his romantic involvement w/ Nancy. Why not? Isn't there some chance he said what he did to save his behind? That is why DNA tests are relevant. Maybe Nancy told him she was his daughter instead of what he's now saying...easy for him to claim since she's now dead.

  • absolutely amazed Sep 5, 2013

    The N.C. Court of Appeals said that Jay Ward WAS qualified to offer testimony on the Google Maps and should have been allowed to testify. Judge Gessner and the Prosecution cost the taxpayers of North Carolina BIG BUCKS

  • In Decisive Sep 5, 2013

    The paternity thing makes no sense to me. The testimony from trial 1 is that Nancy told that guy the child was not his when she was pregnant and that was the end of it. Without a DNA test this guy wouldn't know if he was the father and neither would Nancy. North Carolina laws recognize the husband as the father of any child born during a marriage even if he's not the bio dad and the husband would have to pay child support in a divorce. No money motive for the 1 night stand guy and no proof without a DNA test.

  • dollibug Sep 5, 2013

    And to think that the NSA could have/should have/would have been able to *SOLVE* this murder....if indeed they are capable of doing what some people have claimed they can do/have done. SHAME on them for doing *nothing*.

  • dollibug Sep 5, 2013

    ****what difference does it make as to whom the father of the child was?

    Perhaps there was a *reason* that someone else wanted Nancy dead....perhaps Nancy was getting ready to *expose* this person and he DID NOT WANT TO BE EXPOSED. There are all kinds of weird issues that could have been involved (or caused) this murder. The Cary PD and investigators had *tunnel vision* and did NOT research anything or anyone but BRAD. How very sad that they *assumed* this - and I think we all know what assuming things can do. WELL, IT DID.

  • absolutely amazed Sep 5, 2013

    Kudos to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in granting a new trial for Bradley Cooper. The case was a sham on the part of the Prosecution and Trial Judge from the beginning.

  • dollibug Sep 5, 2013

    ****Investigate Brad then!

    Really? Just how much MORE do you think Brad needs to be *investigated*? IF they have NOT found out *everything* about Brad by now, then they need to give up. It is quite interesting how some people *think or NOT*.

  • Compressed Air 2.0 Sep 4, 2013

    Best news story I've read all week.

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