Local News

No verdict yet in Cook murder trial

Posted February 28, 2011 6:04 a.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2011 5:56 p.m. EST

— After nine hours of deliberations, jurors went home for a second day Monday without reaching a verdict in the trial of a Raleigh doctor charged in the drunken-driving crash that killed an aspiring ballerina more than a year ago.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys both agree that Raymond Cook, a former facial plastic surgeon, was drunk and driving at least 75 mph in a 45 mph speed zone on the evening of Sept. 11, 2009, when he crashed into the back of Elena Bright Shapiro's Hyundai Elantra at Strickland and Lead Mine roads in Raleigh.

They disagree, however, on the charges.

The state has argued that in addition to charges of driving while impaired and felony death by motor vehicle, that Cook is guilty of second-degree murder.

Defense attorneys, however, have argued that their client’s efforts to help save Shapiro’s life after the crash prove he is not.

The case is now in the hands of jurors, who met for several hours Friday and all day Monday to consider the case.

They will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

At one point on Monday, jurors sent a note out to Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith asking him to clarify the definition of the word “malice,” the element that must be present for a second-degree murder conviction.

"He never intended to hurt Elena. He never intended to kill Elena,” Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden told jurors during closing arguments on Friday. "(But) it's going to come down to one word – malice. Malice is not hatred, ill-will or spite ... Malice arises when an act, which is inherently dangerous to human life, is intentionally done so recklessly and wantonly ... without regard for human life."

Witnesses testified that Cook had been drinking at the Raleigh Country Club and later at Piper's Tavern in north Raleigh prior to the fatal crash.

Defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. told jurors that it's natural to feel sadness and anger over what Cook did. However, he said, Cook is not guilty of murder.

"We have a good man sitting over here with a wife and two kids, (a man) who had too much to drink and drove too fast. (But) it’s not close on murder. The law is clear on that," Smith said. "There’s nothing about him that’s evil. There’s nothing about him that’s cruel."