No verdict in Cook murder trial Friday

Raymond Cook appears in a Wake County courtroom

February 26, 2011 4:33:05 AM PST
A Wake County judge dismissed the jury Friday afternoon in the trial of a Raleigh plastic surgeon accused of second-degree murder in the death of a dancer with the Carolina Ballet.

The jury will resume its deliberation Monday morning.

Prosecutors say Raymond Cook was drunk and driving at more than 80 miles per hour in a 45 zone when he plowed into the back of 20-year-old Elena Shapiro's car on Strickland Road September 11, 2009.

The jury began deliberations after closing arguments. The prosecution made its closing argument first. In his closing, lead prosecutor Jeff Cruden told jurors that Cook's alleged crime is all the more heinous because of his choice of a career.

"Don't physicians take some kind of oath to cause no harm?" said Cruden.

Cruden went back through evidence that shows Cook began drinking earlier in the day while playing golf at the Raleigh Country Club. He later left and went to Piper's Tavern where a manager refused to serve him another drink after noticing he was intoxicated. A witness said she saw Cook and a woman in the parking lot of Piper's and asked if he had a ride.

But prosecutors say Cook got behind the wheel anyway. After leaving Piper's, witnesses testified that Cook was travelling at high speed in his black Mercedes down Strickland Road before he ran a red light at Lead Mine Road. Shapiro had just made a right turn from Lead Mine on to Strickland when Cook hit her from behind. The force of the crash crushed Shapiro's car.

A Mercedes mechanic testified that the computer in Cook's car showed it was moving at 88 miles per hour at impact.

In his closing, Cruden detailed all the drinks witnesses said Cook consumed between the time he arrived at the country club around midday and the crash around 8:30 p.m. He allegedly consumed beer on the golf course and then multiple mixed drinks when he got back to the clubhouse.

"He's an alcoholic," charged Cruden.

Cook, sitting with his lawyers, was seen to shake his head.

Cook's defense team has not denied he was intoxicated or speeding, but his lawyers say he did not act with malice - a key argument the prosecution must prove to win a second-degree murder conviction.

"This was no accident. Of course this was no accident, but this was not murder," said defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. in his closing. "He had too much to drink and he drove too fast. There's no way that's malice."

Smith also talked about how Cook got out of his car and performed CPR on Shapiro after the crash - saying it showed he acted without malice.

Smith asked jurors not to let their emotions effect their judgment.

"It's human and natural to feel anger towards Raymond Cook," said Roger Smith, Jr.

Smith questioned the amount prosecutors say Cook had to drink and his level of intoxication. He also said Cook did not run the red light before the crash and said he was not travelling as fast as prosecutors allege.

Jurors have three charges to consider: second-degree murder, felony death by motor vehicle, and driving while impaired. They'll likely get the case Friday afternoon.

Following the crash, Cook gave up his medical license and left positions he once held at WakeMed and the UNC School of Medicine. According to WakeMed hospital's website, Cook was a facial reconstructive expert.

ABC11 has confirmed that the 2009 crash was not the first time Cook had been charged with going well over the speed limit while intoxicated.

In 1989 in Camden County, Georgia, he was stopped for doing 110 in 65 miles-per-hour zone. He was also charged with DWI.

Court records in North Carolina show that same year he was charged with DWI in this state, but the charges were dropped.

Three years earlier, he was charged with driving too fast for conditions.

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