Local News

Jury still deciding on Samuel Cooper's fate

Posted April 19, 2010 5:02 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2010 9:34 a.m. EDT

— A Wake County jury resumed deliberations Tuesday on the fate of a Raleigh man convicted of five first-degree murder charges.

Jurors spent six hours Monday behind closed doors deciding whether Samuel James Cooper Jr. will be sentenced to death or life in prison in the 2006 and 2007 shooting deaths of Ossama Haj-Hussein, 43, LeRoy Jernigan, 41, Timothy Barnwell, 34, Ricky High, 48, and Tariq Hussain, 52.

Jurors asked Superior Court Judge two questions during deliberations Monday. One was whether life sentences would be served back-to-back or at the same time. The other had to do with whether jurors must unanimously vote in favor of a life sentence.

Hight told jurors that they should not be concerned with the way a sentence would be carried out and that a decision on life imprisonment does have to be unanimous.

Cooper, 33, was convicted April 6 after a lengthy trial in which defense attorneys argued that their client, at the time of the crimes, was absent of any emotions and in a delusional state because of years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father.

The state argued that Cooper is a "cold-blooded killer" who was deliberate in the crimes, knew that they were wrong and went to great lengths to hide evidence that could link him to them.

Dozens of witnesses testified during over nearly 20 days in the trial, including Cooper's mother, three of his siblings and family members of some of the victims.

If the jury decides on the death penalty, Cooper would be the sixth person sent to North Carolina's death row since legal challenges effectively put executions on hold in 2007.