Local News

Capital murder trial could take several months

Posted July 10, 2008 1:00 p.m. EDT
Updated July 11, 2008 7:34 p.m. EDT

— The capital murder trial for a convicted felon accused in five slayings will be time-consuming, will probably take several months and isn't scheduled to begin until after the second half of next year, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said Thursday.

The state has turned over 22,000 pages of information to the defense and has five more boxes to copy and deliver, prosecutors said during a status hearing in the case against Samuel James Cooper.

Cooper, 31, was arrested and charged in November with five counts of murder in connection with five unsolved homicides dating to May 2006.

Wake County sheriff's investigators say Cooper shot and killed Ossama "Sam" Haj-Hussein, 43, on May 12, 2006.

Raleigh police believe Cooper shot and killed LeRoy Jernigan, 41, of Clayton, less than a month later.

Cooper is also charged in the April 27, 2007, death of Timothy David Barnwell, 34; the Oct. 12 death of Ricky High, 48; and the Oct. 14 death of Tariq Hussain, 52.

Authorities believe robbery was the motive in each case.

Stephens on Thursday also scheduled pre-trial motions for July 13, 2009 and set the trial date for September 2009, saying the date won't be moved.

"This case takes priority," Stephens said.

Wake County prosecutors said they anticipate the defense to make motions to suppress statements Cooper made to police. Sources told WRAL News in November that Cooper confessed to committing the crimes.

According to court records, Cooper has a criminal record dating from 1993 in Wake County. It includes 10 arrests on a total of 19 charges, including assault on a police officer, escape from prison, robbery, assault on a female, drug charges and larceny.

He is also a suspect in one home invasion in Rockingham County and is charged in connection with a second one there.