Cook was convicted and sentenced earlier in the day for a drunk driving crash that killed ballerina Elena Shapiro on September 11, 2009. He has since been taken to a prison in Craven County, where he will serve 36 to 53 months in prison. The verdict was a small victory for the defense, as they jury chose to convict Cook of involuntary manslaughter over second degree murder.
Just two jurors kept Dr. Cook from being convicted of second degree murder.
One of them told Eyewitness News he did not feel the evidence was there to prove malice.
Elena Shapiro’s family, however, could not disagree more.
“Dr. Cook consciously got into that car drunk, sped 90 miles an hour down a residential road, putting Lord knows how many other people in harm’s way, until he killed Elena,” said Annie Bright, Shapiro’s aunt. “To me that’s no different than standing in front of her and shooting her with a gun.”
Bright asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence on Cook. The verdict came after hours of deliberations that at times became emotional.
“It was very intense. The past two weeks, I probably have not slept very often,” said jury foreman Andrew Miller.
Miller said most jurors felt second degree murder was appropriate, but two disagreed.
“They failed to look at some of the facts, and they tended to break it down in ways that weren’t in application of the law as it was given to us in the jury room,” Miller said.
Elena Shapiro’s parents were outraged.
“We felt like, if I can say, there were two jurors that bullied everyone else—and I know that they came to this conclusion to save us from a mistrial because they care about us,” said Brantley Bright Shapiro, Elena’s mother.
One of the dissenting jurors told Eyewitness News off-camera they did the best they could with the evidence presented. He felt prosecutors did not present enough to prove malice, and that is why he could not agree to the murder charge.
Though upset, Elena’s family said they are glad to see Cook serve time behind bars.
“It may be too little time, but it’s time nonetheless,” said Elena’s father, David Shapiro.