Local News

Brad Cooper asks for stay in upcoming murder trial

Posted February 17, 2011 3:15 p.m. EST
Updated February 17, 2011 10:30 p.m. EST

— Defense attorneys for a Cary man accused of killing his wife in 2008 have bypassed a Superior Court judge’s rulings and gone to the North Carolina Court of Appeals with a motion to stay his upcoming murder trial.

Brad Cooper’s attorneys filed an emergency petition for writ of certiorari on Wednesday, claiming that Judge Paul Gessner improperly ruled against them during a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 4 and therefore denying them access to evidence they are entitled to.

Jury selection in the high-profile case is slated to begin Feb. 28.

“It is clear that the defense in this case has not received all the discovery to which it is entitled,” the motion states. “Unless this court intervenes, Mr. Cooper will go to trial … with counsel who will be ineffective in spite of their best efforts to vindicate Mr. Cooper’s right to make a defense to the charge, which he denies, that he murdered his wife.”

Cooper told investigators that his wife, Nancy Cooper, went jogging on the morning of July 12, 2008, and never returned home. Her body was found two days later about 3 miles from the couple’s home. An autopsy determined that she had likely been strangled.

"We're hoping for a favorable ruling," Cooper's defense attorney, Howard Kurtz, said Thursday. "It would be inappropriate for me to comment beyond that, at this point."

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said his office is aware of the motion but supports Gessner’s rulings.

“This is a little unusual for us to have this issue pre-trial in a criminal case,” he said. “We think the (appellate) court will support Judge Gessner’s rulings or refuse to hear the case.”

It’s unclear how Wednesday’s filing could affect Cooper’s trial date.

Hart Miles, a Raleigh attorney not affiliated with the case, says the defense team’s petition is a rare and interesting tactical move that could delay the trial for months or even up to a year.

“It's a pretty drastic measure for the defense attorney to take on the brink of trial,” he said.

“Judge Gessner has a very good reputation. He listens to both sides. He's always trying to make the right decision,” Miles added. “It is going to be interesting to see how the appeals court deals with it.”