Local News

Cooper murder trial turns to firearms evidence

Posted March 26, 2010 11:47 a.m. EDT
Updated March 26, 2010 4:54 p.m. EDT

— Ballistics evidence was the focus of the state's case Friday morning against Samuel James Cooper, a Raleigh man on trial for shooting and killing five men in a span of more than a year.

Neil Morin, a forensic firearms specialist with the State Bureau of Investigation, testified that agents linked the bullets that killed Ossama Haj-Hussein at the In & Out Food Mart and the bullet that killed LeRoy Jernigan at the Circus Family Restaurant less than a month later.

Eventually, Morin said, testing linked fired projectiles and cartridge casings collected in all five cases to the 9 mm Ruger P89DC handgun that authorities say Cooper dropped while fleeing from police following a November 2007 bank robbery.

The ballistics evidence, as well as Cooper's confession to all five shooting deaths, have been key evidence in the trial. (Read more about how the SBI tests firearms.)

Cooper faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Haj-Hussain, 43, on May 12, 2006; Jernigan, 41, on June 3, 2006; Timothy Barnwell, 34, on April 27, 2007; Ricky High, 48, on Oct. 12, 2007; and Tariq Hussain, 52, on Oct. 14, 2007.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Defense attorneys haven't denied that Cooper shot the men but have said years of physical abuse at his father's hands made him develop a diminished capacity that affects his ability to think clearly and causes him to act impulsively, particularly in moments of stress.