Nancy Cooper

Brad Cooper defense pokes holes in state's case

Posted April 28, 2011 1:51 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2011 10:36 a.m. EDT

— Brad Cooper's defense attorneys showed jurors video Thursday that contradicted earlier testimony that Nancy Cooper always wore her cherished diamond pendant necklace.

Brad Cooper purchased the necklace for his wife in October 2007, Nancy Cooper's friend, Hannah Mathers Prichard, testified in March, and she wore it at a pool on the day before her death.

But Richard McGough, a private investigator for the defense, said she was not wearing it when she was paying for groceries at a Harris Teeter that same day.

The surveillance video comes as attorneys attempt to cast doubt on the case of prosecutors, who claim Brad Cooper, 37, strangled his wife in the early hours of July 12, 2008, after she returned home from a neighborhood barbecue.

"I looked at this. I don't see a necklace," McGough said. "I can see there's no necklace there."

Police found the necklace in the Cooper home several months after Nancy Cooper's death, and the state has implied that Brad Cooper must have removed it from her body after he allegedly killed her and kept it.

Defense attorneys have said Nancy Cooper went jogging around 7 a.m. on the day she died and that Cary police ignored evidence that could have led them to her killer, including accounts from more than a dozen witnesses who saw a jogger matching her description that morning.

According to McGough's testimony, at least three people, including a Cary police officer, said they saw a woman jogging along the same route around the same time that Nancy Cooper would have been running.

One of those witnesses, Curtis Hodges, testified that he was 90 percent sure the woman he saw was Nancy Cooper. Another witness, Rosemary Zednick, said she was confident of it.

Testimony resumes Friday morning. Court was abbreviated Thursday to accommodate the needs of one of the jurors.

Attorneys spent the afternoon in a special hearing about a last-minute computer forensics expert for the defense.

Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner ruled on Monday that Giovanni Masucci could not be called to testify about a Google Maps search on Brad Cooper's work laptop, in part, because prosecutors would not have time to prepare for adequate cross-examination.

Witnesses have said the search in question was made on July 11, 2008, of the site where Nancy Cooper's body was found.

The so-called "offering of proof" is important for the appeals process, if Brad Cooper is found guilty.

Masucci testified that Cary police didn't follow typical forensic protocol when they seized the computer, which was left on for 27 hours after it was in police custody.

Hundreds of files had invalid timestamps, Masucci said, indicating files had been dumped onto the computer from another file system.

Files modified prior to June 23, 2008, had no invalid timestamps, he said. About 83 percent of those modified from July 10-12, 2008, and every file from the Google Maps search had invalid timestamps, he said.

"It is my opinion that with all the suspicious activity that I found on it, the files that were altered, that there's definitely spoliation on that computer, which would lead me to believe it was tampered with," Masucci said. "I couldn't tell you who exactly did it, but I can tell you it's been tampered."

Thursday marked the 35th day of testimony in the trial, and it's unclear how many more days remain.

Prior to going home for the day Thursday, one of the jurors sent Gessner a note asking him to encourage the attorneys to be more efficient.

"Please encourage the attorneys to use time more wisely. Shortened days prolong this process," the note read. "We are hoping to finish this soon! Please ask them to have their witnesses ready to go. We want our lives back."