Local News

No verdict yet in Cook murder trial

Posted February 28, 2011

— After nine hours of deliberations, jurors went home for a second day Monday without reaching a verdict in the trial of a Raleigh doctor charged in the drunken-driving crash that killed an aspiring ballerina more than a year ago.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys both agree that Raymond Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon, was drunk and driving at least 75 mph in a 45 mph speed zone on the evening of Sept. 11, 2009, when he crashed into the back of Elena Bright Shapiro's Hyundai Elantra at Strickland and Lead Mine roads in Raleigh.

They disagree, however, on the charges.

The state has argued that in addition to charges of driving while impaired and felony death by motor vehicle, that Cook is guilty of second-degree murder.

Defense attorneys, however, have argued that their client’s efforts to help save Shapiro’s life after the crash prove he is not.

The case is now in the hands of jurors, who met for several hours Friday and all day Monday to consider the case.

They will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

At one point on Monday, jurors sent a note out to Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith asking him to clarify the definition of the word “malice,” the element that must be present for a second-degree murder conviction.

"He never intended to hurt Elena. He never intended to kill Elena,” Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden told jurors during closing arguments on Friday. "(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."

Witnesses testified that Cook had been drinking at the Raleigh Country Club and later at Piper's Tavern in north Raleigh prior to the fatal crash.

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.

"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."


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  • Miscellaneous Mar 1, 2011

    Ana - if my twin is an well educated realist like myself, well shame on him for taking so long...

  • NCSU PHD Mar 1, 2011

    Raymond Cook, the doctor charged with the second-degree murder of a ballerina in a 2009 car wreck, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and felony death by vehicle by a Wake County jury today.

    Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/03/01/1022039/cook-found-guilty-of-involuntary.html#ixzz1FMyU1dmc

  • targays Mar 1, 2011

    Int.Doc, is there a sentencing hearing, I wonder? I was asking about that last week. Does anyone know if there is a mandatory sentencing guideline? Are there only sentencing hearings for first degree murder cases? I'm not sure what the procedure is on a 2nd. degree case? - "anastasia"

    "anastasis"; North Carolina has what's called 'Structured Sentencing',which removes much of the trial judge's discretion relative to sentencing. There is a specific structured sentence for 2nd degree murder, just as there is for any other felony or misdemeanor.2nd degree murder is a class 'B2' felony. Within the B2 classification, there are several structured sentences the judge must choose. These sentences are arrived at on prior convictions for the defendant and mitigating, presumptive, or aggravated circumstances, which are decided on by the judge. Dr. Cook has no prior conviction; therefore he will fall in a low class relative to sentencing. However, the judge could decide there were aggravating

  • InterestedDoc Mar 1, 2011

    LegalLady--my apology. I re-read your comment and see that you said "had" red lights, not "ran" red lights. I was "hearing" you incorrectly, thinking that you were saying or implying that both had "run" red lights. Didn't mean to be snappy, just was concerned that people were introducing confusion and/or factual errors without really having knowledge or thinking it through. Sorry for my mis-interpretation.

  • anastasia Mar 1, 2011

    If this can't be found as a murder, then no one can. People of Raleigh, you take your lives in your hands, riding on your roads in the early evening. I'm glad we no longer live in the city of Raleigh and seldom return, preferring the country life.

  • Go Figure Mar 1, 2011

    @shag, she testified. WRAL won't publish that testimony because it was done without the jury.

  • anastasia Mar 1, 2011


  • Miscellaneous Mar 1, 2011

    so much for all the legal experts on this site...

  • JAT Mar 1, 2011

    happy - But what if the other juries on those other charges felt the same way - the guy would be free one day. Unless I was certain that someone was not guilty, I don't think I could vote NG. A hung jury would at least let another 12 people have their chance; maybe they'd see things differently one way or the other.

    And, yes, at times I think you can go with your heart. I think we should use our experience and common sense at times - we don't do anything else in life with a blank slate why should jury duty be different. And I said, AT TIMES, not all the time. I have seen trials where I felt the guy did it, but the evidence just wasn't there. Personally, I don't think the Scott Peterson case was proved sufficiently, and based on the evidence only, I would have voted NG. But then you hear about the MJ trial where one juror said they all felt like the molested those kids but chose to go solely with the evidence. I don't know....

  • Go Figure Mar 1, 2011

    I'm with Doc...I think some of you argue solely for the sake of getting a rise from rational people. Genralwayne

    I have been saying this all along. The ignore button works wonders