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Cooper murder trial turns to firearms evidence

Posted March 26, 2010

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— Ballistics evidence was the focus of the state's case Friday morning against Samuel James Cooper, a Raleigh man on trial for shooting and killing five men in a span of more than a year.

Neil Morin, a forensic firearms specialist with the State Bureau of Investigation, testified that agents linked the bullets that killed Ossama Haj-Hussein at the In & Out Food Mart and the bullet that killed LeRoy Jernigan at the Circus Family Restaurant less than a month later.

Trial excerpt: Day 8 testimony SBI agent testifies about linking the crimes

Eventually, Morin said, testing linked fired projectiles and cartridge casings collected in all five cases to the 9 mm Ruger P89DC handgun that authorities say Cooper dropped while fleeing from police following a November 2007 bank robbery.

The ballistics evidence, as well as Cooper's confession to all five shooting deaths, have been key evidence in the trial. (Read more about how the SBI tests firearms.)

Cooper faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Haj-Hussain, 43, on May 12, 2006; 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.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Defense attorneys haven't denied that Cooper shot the men but have said years of physical abuse at his father's hands made him develop a diminished capacity that affects his ability to think clearly and causes him to act impulsively, particularly in moments of stress.

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  • wildcat Mar 26, 2010

    Childhood issues is just an excuse for criminals. May he receive life in prison for his actions and no parole.

  • garden Mar 26, 2010

    Hey, I had a horrid childhood. You can't help what you what happened to you but you can help what you become. I don't buy the poor little me I had a terrible childhood. He chose to murder. Pure and simple.

  • give me no quarter Mar 26, 2010

    The poor me defense. My Daddy did this and my Daddy did that. He went on a killing spree for his drug habit. Plain and simple. You start putting some of these jokers to death and I'm not talking about thirteen years down the road I'm talking from the Court to the gallows and you will see a difference in our society.

  • YNCSW51 Mar 26, 2010

    While Cooper may have been abuse as a child this is still not a defense and does not give him the right to take someone else life. Although I had a rough childhood I grew up got over it and continue on my way. When are people going to start taking responsibility for their actions. He may not get the death penalty but he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. My prayers are with the family that has suffered from this man unthinkable acts.

  • grayboomerang Mar 26, 2010

    That's one heck of a defense (sarcasm) Don't think that one works anymore

  • Skywatch_NC Mar 26, 2010

    Defense attorneys haven't denied that Cooper shot the men but have said years of physical abuse at his father's hands made him develop a diminished capacity that affects his ability to think clearly and causes him to act impulsively, particularly in moments of stress.

    He obviously then should have been confined to a psychiatric unit then ...rather than being free on the streets doing a 2 yr murder spree!