Local News

State, defense rest in Raymond Cook murder trial

Posted February 24, 2011 11:45 a.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2011 12:35 p.m. EST

— The state and defense rested their cases Thursday in the trial of Raymond Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon charged with second-degree murder in the Sept. 11, 2009, wreck that killed Elena Bright Shapiro, 20.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will present their closing arguments Friday morning, and jurors could begin deliberating that afternoon.

Cook told the judge Thursday that he did not want to testify. His defense attorneys also decided not to call any other witnesses. In a routine motion, defense attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the case based on insufficient evidence, which the judge denied. 

Before the state rested its case, prosecutors brought Shapiro's mother, Brantly Shapiro, to the stand briefly to testify. She told the jury which members of her family were in the courtroom – her husband, eldest daughter and son – and identified two pictures of her youngest daughter.

"It's my baby, Elena," she said, holding the pictures.

Jurors spent most of the day Thursday listening to testimony from Raleigh police officer and crash reconstruction expert Chris Bradford. Defense attorneys challenged his crash reconstruction techniques and accused investigators of making too many assumptions.

Bradford testified Wednesday that Cook was traveling at least 75 to 82 mph when he crashed into Shapiro's Hyundai Elantra at Strickland and Lead Mine roads. The posted speed limit in that area is 45 mph.

An emergency room doctor testified last week that Cook's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.24. An alcohol testing expert testified Tuesday that Cook's blood-alcohol concentration may have been closer to 0.20. Defense attorneys argue that scientific standard deviation could drop that number to 0.17.

Under North Carolina law, a driver is considered impaired with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08.

Witnesses have testified that Cook drank alcohol at the Raleigh Country Club and later at Piper's Tavern prior to the fatal crash.

Defense attorneys haven’t denied that Cook had been drinking but contended in opening statements last week that he’s innocent of second-degree murder because of his attempt to help Shapiro after the crash.

Prosecutors have contended that, because Cook had been drinking, the wreck was not an accident.

Prosecutors offered Cook a plea deal in May, but he and his lawyer never agreed to it. Since the wreck, he surrendered his medical license and completed a stint at a rehab clinic.