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Samuel Cooper murder trial will resume Monday

Posted March 18, 2010
Updated March 22, 2010

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— The murder trial will start up again next week for a Raleigh man accused of killing five men in a string of robberies spanning more than a year.

Superior Court Judge Henry Hight recessed proceedings Wednesday in the trial of Samuel James Cooper after one of his defense attorneys, Lisa Miles, got sick.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday, the court said Thursday.

Cooper, 33, faces five first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Ossama "Sam" Haj-Hussein, LeRoy Jernigan, Timothy Barnwell, Ricky High and Tariq Hussain– all were killed during a period spanning more than a year in 2006 and 2007.

If convicted, Cooper could face the death penalty.

Testimony ended Tuesday afternoon with a supervisor of one of the Raleigh Police Department's homicide squads testifying about how they linked Cooper to the slayings. (Read more about what happened in court Tuesday.)

Garner police arrested Cooper in November 2007 after a bank robbery and subsequent chase to a Domino's Pizza distribution center where his mother worked. He dropped a gun while running from police.

Ballistics testing matched the gun to evidence recovered from the five crime scenes.

Jurors also heard an audio interview Tuesday in which Cooper admitted to all five shootings and said he tried shooting above the neck to avoid being "messy."

"'Cause you shoot from the neck down, anything could happen," he says in the recording. "I mean, that person could identify you or anything."

"So you're telling me, basically, you shot in the head to make sure they were dead?" a police detective asks.

"To make sure they didn't talk," Cooper says.

Defense attorneys don't deny Cooper shot his victims, but they unsuccessfully sought to have the confession suppressed, arguing it was coerced.

The issue in the trial, they have said, is whether he acted with premeditation and deliberation.

His attorneys say that he has a diminished capacity from years of physical abuse at his father's hands, which affects his ability to think clearly, particularly in moments of stress.

"He does not have the same emotions that any of us do," defense attorney Stephen Freedman told jurors during opening statements Monday. "What happened to Sammy Cooper in the 17 years at home very much has to do with what happened at the time of the offenses … The fact is, that trigger was pulled years before these offenses ever occurred."


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  • crash2478 Mar 22, 2010

    Says he could face the death penalty. If he don't something is very wrong with the system.

  • sssh.. whisper Mar 22, 2010

    lumberman.. I would have to agree with you. This is why I wish the laws would allow stiffer penalties in "new home-made prisons". Prisons and jails should be places that people FEAR and not be so anxious to return back to.

  • lumberman Mar 22, 2010

    Being in prison must not be too bad. People don't seem to mind going back. Just look at the number of repeat offenders. Whats not to like food shelter TV weights.

  • wildcat Mar 22, 2010


  • beachlova Mar 22, 2010

    FRY HIM !!!!

  • krazykristie06 Mar 22, 2010

    "What happened to Sammy Cooper in the 17 years at home very much has to do with what happened at the time of the offenses..."

    Bull Hockey!! I can see this statement if he was being attacked and then snapped. But this guy was after money during the time of these murders! He killed innocent people because he didn't want to be identified. Not because he was under stress! Death Penalty Please!

  • Faceman Mar 22, 2010

    another one that could sit on death row for about 10 years..he already hung himself when he talked to the Detectives..so he is GUILTY!!

  • Just Once Mar 22, 2010

    Yeah - But it REALLY wasn't his fault... It was his FATHER... really!! Can anyone really be expected to be responsible for their own actions after being abused? I mean just because it was 20 years ago... He didn't MEAN to... It slipped and it really wasn't his fault.

  • Adelinthe Mar 18, 2010

    "If convicted, Cooper could face the death penalty."

    If convicted, he well should; if you deliberately take a life, you should forfeit your own.

    God bless.