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Wake serial killer's attorney says confession was coerced

Posted December 15, 2011

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— Defense attorneys for a Raleigh man serving a life sentence in prison for murdering five people told appellate judges Thursday that their client was coerced into confessing to the crimes.

Samuel James Cooper, 34, was convicted April 6, 2010, on five counts of first-degree murder in a series of shootings in Wake County in 2006 and 2007.

He admitted to the crimes in 2007 after an unrelated bank robbery in which the gun he used was linked to ballistic evidence found at some of the murder scenes.

Arguing before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, defense attorney Mark Montgomery said police arrested his father on a weapons charge and put so much pressure on Cooper that he felt he had no choice but to tell investigators what they wanted to hear.

"Sammy held out for four days and finally confessed after they arrested his father, because the price they demanded for his father's release was his confession to murder," Montgomery said. "Sammy has a very strong attachment to his dad. Psychologists say it is a pathological attachment to his dad. The police knew that; they exploited that."

Steve Arbogast, an attorney for the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, disagreed, saying the facts of the case supported Cooper's guilt.

Samuel Cooper Convicted serial killer appeals for new trial

"The defendant was never, in any of those (confessions), told 'We're going to arrest your father if you don't start talking,'" Arbogast said. "They didn't lie to him about what they had, and they didn't yell at him. They didn't threaten him. There was no abusive language or conduct toward him."

In addition to challenging the admissibility of Cooper's confession, defense attorneys also argued that the court did not properly instruct the jury on whether Cooper acted deliberately – one of the required findings for a first-degree murder conviction.

They claim Cooper did not have the capacity to weigh the consequences of his actions. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative disorder because of years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of his father, they argued, and was in a delusional state at the time of the shootings.

Prosecutors called Cooper a cold-blooded serial killer who was deliberate in the crimes, knew they were wrong and went to great lengths to hide evidence that could link him to them.

Any mental issues he had did not affect his ability to form a specific intent to kill, they argued.

The state unsuccessfully sought the death penalty for Cooper, whom a jury found guilty of killing Ossama Haj-Hussein, 43, on May 12, 2006; LeRoy Jernigan, 41, on June 3, 2006; Timothy Barnwell, 34, on April 27, 2007; Ricky High, 48, on Oct. 12, 2007; and Tariq Hussain, 52, on Oct. 14, 2007.

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  • miss Q B Dec 16, 2011

    YouMakeItSoEasy -

    next time try having a clue when you comment. the trial is over, so they have the right to say & do what they want now. the family is only advised not to speak during the process of the trial. the trial has come & gone! he was convicted & hopefully prison is where he will stay!

  • fayncmike Dec 15, 2011

    "so when the powers that be say he is free and one of the victims family members who have been so tramatized by his killing their love one takes his life are we going to be so kind to that mistreated family member. I think not. They would be ready to hang them from a tree. What the ---- is wrong in this country? We promote wrong and squash right. do I sound angry? I am. I want this country to be fair to all and uphold the laws.
    puzzled"

    That's exactly right. Here in the USA we go through the courts. We do not form goon squads to dispense vigilante justice. Those that do should be punished just as harshly as the original criminal.

  • justice4leroy Dec 15, 2011

    Mr if Mrs." You make it so easy" I don't need to defend myself to you....I have a right to say what I want just as you do...

  • Screw WrAl Dec 15, 2011

    "I am the "sister" of LeRoy Jernigan who was murdered at the hands of this man."

    No you're not. Any lawyer worth a dime would tell you that you don't sign on to wral and start spouting off if you were.

  • justice4leroy Dec 15, 2011

    I am the "sister" of LeRoy Jernigan who was murdered at the hands of this man. Yes! this is sickening in everyway, however we need to also understand the "lawyers" have a job to do as well, is it a job that I want "NO" because I have alot of mixed emtions about this.. However I will say this "this demon" has and will always have more rights than my brother ever will, my brother can't ask for an appeal on his own life...just remember the VICTIMS and WHAT THEIR FAMILIES FACE DAILY in this matter...

  • randall0123a Dec 15, 2011

    A lawyer's sole purpose "should be" to present all the facts in the defense of a person, that will show their innocence. A lawyer should NOT make up any information, distort proper facts, or work to dismiss relevant facts about a defendants actions for the sole purpose of winning their case. A case is WON (ethically), either by a defending attorney or the prosecuting attorney when the “truth” comes out about a defendant’s guilt or innocence. Of course, with this warped and twisted judicial system, a case is simply won by either attorney, regardless of guilt or innocence. So, a person’s guilt is done Vegas style, where the attorney that plays the game the best, wins. Truth be damned…

  • outdoor592000 Dec 15, 2011

    Good, retry him and go for the Death Penalty. Sounds like a great plan to me!

  • callie2 Dec 15, 2011

    Excuse me, but the lawyers are simply doing their jobs. There is nothing "disgusting" about what they are doing. They have not "had their conscious and ethics surgically removed." Speaking of ethics - attorneys have an ethical obligation to ALL of their clients, not just the ones that people are rooting for! This is our justice system people. You can love it and hate it for all the same reasons. Let justice take its course. Yeah, he's a scumbag. All murders are scumbags.

  • wildcat Dec 15, 2011

    that their client was coerced into confessing to the crimes.

    Really? What did the forencis and evidence prove and show? Case closed. He is guilty and is trying to find some red tape to get out of prison.

  • cpdtg Dec 15, 2011

    You know with the system like it is Let the people who do these crimes go free then someone could give them what they got comin then they can hire one of these defense lawyers and get off themselves BAD GUYS GONE

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