Local News

Brad Cooper's murder trial will stay in Wake

Posted September 23, 2010 5:07 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2010 6:28 p.m. EDT

— A Superior Court judge has denied a request to change the location for the murder trial of a Cary man accused of killing his wife more than two years ago.

Attorneys for Brad Cooper filed the motion in August, saying their client couldn't get a fair trial in Wake County because of local news reports, specifically those from WRAL News and The Raleigh News & Observer, that they claim were "inflammatory" and "prejudiced" against Cooper.

"The defendant has failed to show that the nature and extent of the pre-trial publicity of this case will prevent a fair trial," Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner wrote in his ruling, filed Thursday afternoon.

Gessner said he found the reports to be factual and non-inflammatory, adding that the length of time between the publicity and the trial, scheduled for January, has been "considerable."

"The defendant did not show there is a 'prevailing community atmosphere' that would prevent the defendant from receiving a fair trial," he continued in his ruling.

Brad 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 Coopers' home. An autopsy determined that she had likely been strangled.

As police investigated, Nancy Cooper's family successfully fought a public battle for custody of the couple's two daughters.

It included testimony from family and friends who asserted their beliefs that Brad Cooper killed his wife and claims that he had been emotionally abusive to her in the weeks leading to her death.

In September 2008, Brad Cooper's attorneys set up a website about the case and posted surveillance videos, copies of receipts and photos of their client in an effort to dispute the allegations.

Gessner questioned Cooper's attorneys during a hearing on the change of venue request this month. He also mentioned the site in his ruling.

"Kurtz and Blum maintained a website devoted to addressing issues in this case," he wrote. "The website discussed issues relevant to the case and published purported evidence. Members of the Kurtz & Blum law firm conducted a press conference which was reported by the local television media."

Cooper was arrested more than a month later and charged with first-degree murder.

His trial was scheduled for Oct. 25, but earlier this month, Gessner moved it back to at least February 2011, saying attorneys needed more time to review evidence.