Judge finds no juror misconduct in Cooper case

Brad Cooper listens to evidence with his attorney Howard Kurtz

March 25, 2011 3:32:53 PM PDT
Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner instructed the Wake County Sheriff's office to investigate allegations of juror misconduct in the Brad Cooper trial Friday morning.

Gessner issued his order after prosecutor Howard Cummings handed the judge a printed email and stated another prosecutor on the case - Amy Fitzhugh - had received a voice mail similar to the email that accused a juror of talking about the case in public.

"My primary concern is that I have repeatedly given these jurors instructions that they are not to talk about this matter among themselves or allow anybody to talk about it in their presence," Gessner said.

Gessner retired to his chambers with representatives from the sheriff's office, including the chief deputy who heads up investigations. The jury was then called in and testimony continued with a representative from AT&T explaining cell phone records.

Later Friday, the judge said no wrongdoing was found.

Brad Cooper is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife Nancy. Her partially clothed body was found by a man walking his dog in an undeveloped subdivision not far from her home on July 14, 2008 - two days after she was reported missing. She had been strangled. Brad told detectives Nancy went out for a run the morning of July 12 and never returned.

Prosecutors say Cooper killed her because he was angry she intended to leave him, take their children, and move to be with her family in Canada. Much of the trial so far has dealt with their marital problems. The defense admitted in its opening statement that Brad had an affair, but said the couple were working to reconcile.

In court Friday, Gessner overruled a defense objection to old love letters addressed to Brad Cooper being introduced into evidence. Detectives found the letters in a closet, and one was from a woman writing about falling asleep in Brad's arms. The defense said the letters were written before the Coopers were married, are not relevant to the case, and are potentially prejudicial.

The prosecution argued the letters are relevant because they refute Cooper's contention that he was working to reconcile with his wife.

In overruling the defense objection, Gessner said the defense in its opening statement called the Cary Police Department corrupt and said it bungled the investigation. The judge said he felt that entitled the prosecution to painstakingly detail every step of the investigation and what was found.

Testimony ended at 1 p.m. Friday with Gessner reading jurors his instructions on their behavior. He put great emphasis on them not talking about the case with anyone else until they were sent to the jury room to deliberate at the end of the trial. Gessner said testimony would resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

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