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Jury begins deliberations in Cook murder trial

Posted February 25, 2011
Updated February 28, 2011

— Jurors deliberated for a few hours Friday afternoon without reaching a verdict in the murder trial of a man charged with second-degree murder for a 2009 crash that killed an aspiring ballerina.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that Dr. Raymond Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon, was drunk and driving too fast on Sept. 11, 2009, when he crashed into the back of Elena Bright Shapiro's Hyundai Elantra at Strickland and Lead Mine roads.

However, they disagreed on the charges in the case and one word – "malice" – which determines the difference between second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden asked jurors to find Cook guilty of second-degree murder.

"He never intended to hurt Elena. He never intended to kill Elena," Cruden said. "(But) it's going to come down to one word – malice. Malice is not hatred, ill-will or spite ... Malice arises when an act, which is inherently dangerous to human life, is intentionally done so recklessly and wantonly ... without regard for human life."

Cruden credited Cook for giving Shapiro mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the crash scene, but said Cook never inquired about her condition after she was taken to the hospital.

"Did he ever once ask, 'How’s Elena? How’s that girl that I hit?' He never once asked," Cruden said.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden State's closing argument in Raymond Cook murder trial

Shapiro's mother buried her head in her husband's shoulder as Cruden showed jurors a picture of her daughter smiling and then a picture of her dead.

Defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. told jurors that it's natural to feel sadness and anger over what Cook did. However, he said, Cook is not guilty of murder.

Defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. Defense's closing argument in Raymond Cook murder trial

"We have a good man sitting over here with a wife and two kids, (a man) who had too much to drink and drove too fast. (But) it’s not close on murder. The law is clear on that," Smith said. "There’s nothing about him that’s evil. There’s nothing about him that’s cruel."

Smith also talked about Cook's efforts to help Shapiro, 20, after the crash and said Cook "put his mouth on her mouth that was covered in blood."

Cook is accused of traveling at least 75 to 82 mph and crashing into Shapiro's car. The posted speed limit in that area is 45 mph.

An emergency room doctor testified last week that Cook's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.24. An alcohol testing expert testified Tuesday that Cook's blood-alcohol concentration may have been closer to 0.20. Defense attorneys argued that scientific standard deviation could drop that number to 0.17.

Under North Carolina law, a driver is considered impaired with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08.

Witnesses testified that Cook drank alcohol at the Raleigh Country Club and later at Piper's Tavern prior to the fatal crash.

Defense attorneys haven’t denied that Cook had been drinking but contended in opening statements last week that he’s innocent of second-degree murder because of his attempt to help Shapiro after the crash.

Prosecutors have contended that, because Cook had been drinking, the wreck was not an accident.

Prosecutors offered Cook a plea deal in May, but he and his lawyer never agreed to it. Since the wreck, he surrendered his medical license and completed a stint at a rehab clinic.

Jurors are expected to resume deliberations Monday morning.


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  • twoloves Feb 25, 2011

    Yes, his mistake cost a life of a promising girl and I feel for her family. But his mistake also affects his family in a big way too. He has 2 young daughters that have to deal with all the news and media and the affects of his consequences so NO ONE wins in this situation. Unless you have been in this situation.....what is the best outcome. I deal with losing a family member everyday to a drunk driver and as always life must go on but it's something you never get over.

  • rdmcswai Feb 25, 2011

    If he is not convicted of 2nd degree murder can he still be convicted of other charges? Like involuntary manslaughter?

  • GOPACK80 Feb 25, 2011

    Felony Death by Vehicle: Class E felony, sentence is 15-98 months depending on aggravating/mitigating factors.

    2nd Degree murder carries a MINIMUM 7 years in prison

  • kidsrn Feb 25, 2011

    As I have said from the beginning, I believe that he is guilty of 2nd degree murder. This was NOT his first DUI. He showed no consideration for others when he got behind that wheel and chose to drive. If it had been your family member who was killed would that change the way you felt? We are too lenient with drunk drivers----esp. repeat offenders. Make an example of this guy----maybe, MAYBE it will make some other drunk think twice before doing what Cook did.

  • GOPACK80 Feb 25, 2011

    One would assume they took a strawpoll before they left for the weekend. If it was 12-0 guilty for 2nd degree murder, I feel they would have rendered their official verdict this afternoon. Then again, there could be some jurors that are undecided and want to review more evidence.

  • diane7183 Feb 25, 2011

    I was at work all day so I just now heard the State's closing argument. I have to say that I have been impressed with the way the State has handled this case. I think they presented relevant evidence and witnesses. Though I think this is a tragedy for both families, I also feel that Cook knowingly did the wrong thing, and he needs to be punished severely for his actions. The Shapiro family has suffered enough, and I hope that they do get the justice they rightfully deserve for their loss. Cook needs the full punishment the law can provide and that would include a lengthy jail sentence without chance for parole for at least 20 years.

  • computer trainer Feb 25, 2011

    the people- The Victim is Dead. She will never again speak.

  • shortcake53 Feb 25, 2011

    This will be a long weekend for the Shapiro's. I cant imagine their agony. I'm so sorry they have to endure this.

  • Go Figure Feb 25, 2011

    gopack80......why do you think one juror does not want to vote for 2nd degree? Luxurytravel

    That is what I would like to know.

  • HeadPro Feb 25, 2011

    All people make mistake and it just so happened this cost a life. twoloves

    True, but this guy is a repeat DUI offender. So... given the circumstances, I would say Cook has an established behavior that has cost a life, and going unchecked, would most likely cost more lives...