Local News

Psychiatrist: Cooper chose to shoot and kill

Posted April 8, 2010 5:44 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2010 11:05 a.m. EDT

— A Raleigh man facing the death penalty for five shooting deaths was capable of making the decisions to pull the trigger, a forensic psychiatrist testified Thursday.

"These were choices that he made," Dr. Nicole Wolfe said of the crimes of which Samuel James Cooper was convicted this week.

Defense attorneys have argued that Cooper, 33, suffers from dissociation and post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from years of abuse at the hands of his father.

He was in a delusional state and did not understand the consequences of his actions at the time of the crimes, they have said.

Jurors found Cooper guilty Tuesday of five counts of first-degree murder in the 2006 and 2007 slayings of Ossama Haj-Hussein, LeRoy Jernigan, Timothy Barnwell, Ricky High and Tariq Hussain.

During the sentencing phase of Cooper's capital murder trial, his attorneys must now try to convince a jury that he should be sentenced to a life prison sentence and not death.

Wolfe disputed the defense's diagnoses of Cooper but said he does suffer from antisocial personality disorder and narcissism. (Read Wolfe's report on Cooper's mental state.)

Neither though, would have contributed to the killings.

"You can also have a disorder and it has nothing to do with the crime that you commit, but when the crime is as a result of a mental disorder, there's usually some evidence of it in the crime," Wolfe said. "There really wasn't anything here but very well-organized behavior."

Defense attorneys will question Wolfe during cross-examination Friday.

Jurors are also expected to hear from some of the murder victims' family members before the state rests its case.