NC Supreme Court won't stand in way of Brad Cooper retrial
Posted January 24, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Supreme Court decided Friday not to hear the state's appeal of a lower court ruling granting a Cary man a new trial in the 2008 death of his wife.
The state Court of Appeals ruled on Sept. 3 that Brad Cooper should get a new trial for the strangling death of Nancy Cooper after the judge erred in the 10-week murder trial by not allowing defense witnesses to testify about critical evidence that could have changed the jury's verdict.
Because the appellate court ruling was unanimous, the Supreme Court wasn't obligated to take up the case. The Attorney General's Office petitioned the court for a discretionary review, but the court denied the request without comment.
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said the case "will probably be retried," but he noted that scheduling a new trial will be difficult.
"You have to commit a judge and courtroom for a long period of time," Willoughby said.
Brad Cooper, 39, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 and is serving a life prison sentence. He is now entitled to a bond hearing, which could happen as early as next week.
He maintains that Nancy Cooper left to go jogging on the morning of July 12, 2008, and never returned home. Her body was found several days later in a drainage ditch in an undeveloped subdivision a few miles from their Cary home.
The state's only concrete evidence in the case was a Google Maps search of the site where her body was found.
Prosecutors contended it was made the day before Nancy Cooper disappeared, but defense attorneys argued that someone tampered with Brad Cooper's computer while Cary police searched the couple's house for evidence.
Two defense witnesses weren't allowed to give their expert opinion that someone tampered with the Google Maps files, and the appeals court said the trial judge should have allowed the testimony.
"The Google Map files recovered from the defendant's laptop were perhaps the most important pieces of evidence admitted in this trial," the three-judge Court of Appeals panel wrote in its ruling.
Garry Rentz, Nancy Cooper's father, said the family was prepared for the possibility that Brad Cooper might get another trial.
“The matter is for the court to decide; it is not a decision we make," Rentz said. "It is honestly beyond our control. I can understand why the decision (to uphold the appeals court decision) was made.”
Nancy Cooper's sister and brother-in-law now have custody of the Coopers' two daughters and are raising them near Vancouver, British Columbia. Rentz said the family hopes the new trial doesn't mean a new custody fight over the girls.
"We don’t want any more issues in their lives than they’ve already had," he said.