Update: 2/17/14: This blog post was written just a few months after the trial. Since that time, I’ve made several videos that highlight each item that’s discussed here. The videos are now included with each topic.
This post will provide a more complete overview of the extensive misconduct that occurred in this case, and it wasn’t just the police. Police, prosecutors and the judge all played a role in the railroading of Brad Cooper. The Wake county prosecutors were responsible for presenting the “evidence” gathered in this shoddy investigation and the judge was clearly biased. Everything was stacked against Brad Cooper receiving a fair trial and people need to understand this because if it happened in this trial, surely it’s occurring in many others as well. This affects all of us.
The state spent 8 weeks of a 10 week trial presenting non-evidence, hearsay, gossip and fabricated evidence to the jury. One must wonder why they wasted so much time on this, especially knowing that it would become apparent that police destroyed evidence and ignored other critical evidence. I believe their case against Brad was so weak that they had to present something so they created things to make it appear as though it was evidence when it actually was not. In reality, they should have never charged him in the first place since there was no real evidence linking him to the crime, but they decided to forge ahead because they were determined to pin this on him from the very beginning.
The police misconduct began when Chief Bazemore stated “this is not a random crime” the very day that Nancy’s body was found, just two days after she disappeared while jogging. No matter what she may have suspected early on, it was extremely unethical for her to make that statement. She gave everyone the impression that Brad was guilty from the very beginning, with nothing to base it on (except the idea that the husband is always suspected first). Her statement influenced the custody ruling which resulted in Brad losing custody of his girls days later. It also influenced public opinion and the jury that would ultimately convict him. I believe her goal was to wrap this up quickly so that Cary could maintain their “safe town” image.
The evidence doesn’t support the state’s theory: The theory that Brad strangled Nancy in the foyer shortly after she returned from the party doesn’t fit because there is way too much evidence to support Brad’s claim that Nancy went jogging that morning. There is also no evidence that a murder took place in that house or that a body was transported in the vehicle.
Brad told the detectives that Nancy went jogging that morning and his story was supported in several significant ways that can not be ignored. Three witnesses from the party the previous night confirmed that she discussed plans to jog the following morning; Nancy called Brad at 6:40 that morning while he was on his way to the grocery store which was confirmed by phone records; Sixteen people contacted police to report seeing a woman matching Nancy’s description that morning and many of them reported the woman was jogging and finally the Cooper’s daughter, Bella told Clea Morwick that she saw her mother that morning and she was wearing black shorts and a white shirt. That clothing description also matched that of several of the witnesses who believed they saw Nancy that morning. But police ignored these reports, ignored Brad’s story, ignored witnesses from the party and ignored the information from Bella and instead chose to believe one woman – Jessica Adam, even though her story was flimsy and uncorroborated. Article
Jessica made the 911 call to police to report Nancy missing and made accusations that Brad may have harmed Nancy when she had only been missing a few hours. Why would she do that? Why didn’t police question her about this? She had no reason to suspect that he would ever harm her. She stated under oath that Brad never hurt Nancy and that Nancy wasn’t afraid of him, so what provoked her to make those accusations? We don’t know the answer to that because police never pursued it.
Jessica told police in the 911 call that she was expecting Nancy at her house to paint that morning. No one else can confirm this and in fact it conflicted with tennis plans that Brad had that morning at 9:30AM. Nancy was aware of the plans and knew that she would have to watch the children. Why did police disregard the story that Nancy went jogging and buy the story that she had paint plans, even though the jog story was supported and verified by others? It doesn’t make any sense but that’s what they did.
And there’s more evidence that Jessica’s paint story was not very believable. She initially told police that she made the painting plans with Nancy by phone on Friday, 7/11. When police looked at the records and noticed that the call was not on there, she changed her story. Now she said that she made the plans to paint at the Cooper’s home on Friday in person. Police just went with it instead of questioning her about this. How could she have forgotten something so important? She claims she forgot that she was at Nancy’s house the day before she disappeared? Why weren’t police suspicious of her changing her story? They certainly should have been.
Ricardo Lopez was one of the witnesses from the party that told police that Nancy had plans to jog the next morning. In his first recorded interview he described a conversation that he’d had with Nancy that evening in vivid details and he was very specific and firm about her plans to jog the next morning. At the end of the interview, Detective Dismukes told Lopez that he would have to speak to his wife, Donna to make sure they had their facts straight. The next morning, Lopez called Dismukes and said he would like to go back to the police station to change his story. He said he didn’t want to “jeopardize the investigation”. His second interview did not sound truthful and he said “he couldn’t be sure she said she had plans to jog”. I believe police influenced him, through his wife to change his story because they didn’t want anything out there that corroborated Brad’s story and Lopez’s story did. Trial video of this testimony, including the police interviews is here.
Days and days of testimony that didn’t prove the call was automated: In order for the state’s theory to stick, they had to address the 6:40AM call from the Cooper’s home to Brad’s cell phone while he was on his way to the grocery store. If Nancy was alive at that time, their theory crumbles and Brad’s story is correct and he is innocent. So they went to very great lengths to attempt to show the jury all the various ways that a phone call could be automated using a computer. They assert that since Brad was a VoIP engineer, he was perfectly capable of automating a call. The problem is – they were never able to PROVE that the call was automated and all indications are that it was not. Is this the type of case we want our DA’s office to present? That because someone “could have” done something means that they did? I don’t think so, but somehow the jury had no problem convicting despite NO proof. Video
Ignored witnesses: Most of the 16 witnesses who reported seeing someone matching Nancy’s description that morning were never followed up with. Some of them were followed up with, but not until 3 months later. It was just before Brad’s custody hearing and police were aware that some of them would be testifying at the hearing. I believe that is the only reason they ever bothered to question any of them. It was inexcusable for them to ignore this, information that could have helped find Nancy Cooper. Wouldn’t one expect that police would question these people immediately to hopefully find leads and clues as to where Nancy may have been that morning and even after they found her body, to obtain details that could help them determine what happened to her? They didn’t bother because they felt certain that Brad was guilty, with NO evidence indicating that he was. Video
Ignored evidence: Police ignored evidence at the scene. Tire tracks were found near the body but police didn’t take castings to try to find the make and model of the vehicle. Footprints were found near Nancy’s body, but police didn’t cast those either. The tire tracks didn’t match the Cooper vehicles and the footprints were too small to be Brad’s.
Destroyed evidence: Police took Nancy’s cell phone the day she disappeared and instead of trying to find information on who she was recently in contact with, they threw the phone in a desk for two weeks. Apparently they didn’t need to try to track down her recent contacts because they had already solved the case in their minds. While she was still a missing person, wouldn’t it have made sense for them to get into that phone to try to locate her? They didn’t bother.
In late July, the Defense sent police a preservation letter, which is standard when digital evidence is being handled. The letter was a warning to carefully handle the phones and computers so that evidence would not be lost. Days later, detective Young erased Nancy’s blackberry cell phone and erased the SIM card. He said he received instructions on how to get into the phone from AT&T but he didn’t bother to record them in his notes. He had no digital forensic experience either, yet he was tasked with trying to get into the phone. He testified that he followed his memorized instructions from an unknown representative from AT&T 10 days later and this process wiped the cell phone.
Fabricated evidence/shoes: The police and prosecutors put a great deal of focus on shoes in this case. In all three cases the facts were misrepresented. First, Detective Young claimed to have found two right shoes, implying that while hastily cleaning up the crime scene, Brad grabbed two left shoes by mistake and disposed of them. During the trial there was a LOT of discussion about the “missing” two left shoes and honestly, it does sound good if you believe someone is guilty. However, the truth is that the two right shoes were different sizes, different styles, were not even Nancy’s current size and they were not even found in the house! There were a ton of shoes scattered all throughout the Cooper’s home and Young “found” the mismatched shoes on a shelf in the garage. Clearly this was fabricated evidence and the prosecutors had no problem using it at the trial. They made sure they highlighted this in closing.
Missing shoes: Throughout the trial they referred to Brad’s missing shoes, the pair he was wearing in the Harris Teeter video. It was their theory that he disposed of the body right before that trip and that is the significance of the “missing” shoes. The site where the body was found was extremely muddy and if Brad had been there in those shoes, mud would have been in the car, on his shoes and on the floor in the HT video. It was not. Detective Young testified that he never asked Brad for the shoes, it’s not in any of his notes that he ever searched for the shoes and the shoes were not even included in the initial search warrant. They were included in a search warrant right after his arrest, over three months later. Yet, the prosecutors went on and on about Brad’s “missing” shoes. I can’t think of any reason why they neglected to find and examine those shoes in those first days of the investigation. They had the HT video on July 12th.
More missing shoes: Finally, there’s Nancy’s missing shoes. Brad told Young on 7/13 that Nancy had 3 pairs of running shoes – documented in his hand written notes. One pair was never found and that is obviously the pair she wore that morning when she left to go running. Police found the receipt for those shoes at the Athlete’s Foot store. Brad told police that Nancy purchased her running shoes there. They tried to determine if Nancy possibly returned that pair of shoes. Young testified that the store was unable to determine whether or not the shoes had been returned. That was a lie that was revealed in further testimony when he read his signed statement about the store verifying that the shoes had never been returned at that store. Why would the police detective feel compelled to lie on the stand if the investigation was honest? Again, the prosecutors ran with this and stated to the jury that Nancy’s only running shoes were in the home. Video
“The bed did not appear to have been slept in” – Detective Daniels had this written in his notes on 7/12, referring to Nancy’s bed. But the bed did look slept in. Photos displayed during the trial confirmed this. When asked, officer Hayes testified that it looked as if someone sat in it. When the defense attorney asked Daniels about the bed, he testified that he first wrote the note that the bed didn’t look slept in, sat in the bed, did not document that he sat in it, then took a photo of the bed. It is simply unbelievable. The bedding would later be sent to SBI for bodily fluid and fiber analysis and Daniels didn’t bother to inform SBI that he had contaminated it by sitting on it. Video
The updating of the narratives: There were several instances where Detective Daniels post-added information to his case notes. This may not seem like such a big deal, possibly he remembered additional information…but the additional notes changed the original meaning of what he recorded, and it made Brad appear guilty. The dress information is one example. On July 13th, Brad found the dress Nancy was wearing on the evening of 7/11 and he presented it to the detectives and at that time Daniels recorded in his notes, “dress found in bedroom hamper”. Six months later, in the same narrative for July 13th, he added “dress smelled like Downy”. He apparently decided to indicate that Brad washed the dress because it would naturally look suspicious if he washed the dress that police said she was wearing when she died. You see, their theory is that he killed her in the foyer when she arrived home from the party. For their theory to stick, they needed evidence that the dress had been washed to hide any signs of the murder. But SBI testimony conflicts with the “washing of the dress” because there were deodorant streaks on the dress and they also found a grease-like oily stain consistent with food. Combine the post-added notations with the SBI testimony and it’s pretty clear that the initial notes were accurate. Brad did not wash the dress. If he had, those initial notes surely would have reflected that. Video
There were other instances of note changing too. Daniels wrote in his notes “long sleeves” to describe what Brad was wearing on July 12th. When shown a photo of Brad wearing short sleeves that day, the detective said it was a “typo”. I don’t think he realized that a photo of Brad in short sleeves existed and when presented with it, the best he could come up with was “it was a typo”.
John Pearson: During the first recorded interview, Pearson never mentioned his sexual encounter with Nancy. On the second recorded interview he admitted that he had been with Nancy on Halloween 2005. This should have been enough to warrant a more thorough investigation into him and he probably should have been considered a suspect, but he was not. In the interview he sounded nervous, admitted to recent contact with Nancy, and stated he was aware of her jogging routes.
Additionally, Brad and Nancy’s second child was born 9 months after Pearson and Nancy were together. The FBI suggested that the Cary police request DNA of both children but they either neglected to procure it or they did and never shared the results with the defense. The paternity of the child remains unknown. Video
The Cary police and their relationship with Tharrington-Smith: Alice Stubbs was representing Nancy Cooper in the divorce. After her death, she handled the custody case for Nancy’s family. The Cary police established a close relationship with them. They told witnesses to interview with them and many of the state witnesses (Nancy’s “friends”) supplied affidavits smearing Brad Cooper in the custody suit and the Cary police supplied Alice Stubbs with questions for the custody deposition. Detective Daniels denied supplying her with questions but the questions were too specific and had to come from the police. The 8 hour deposition was used to provide police with “inconsistencies” in Brad’s story. The few inconsistencies revealed in this interrogation were trivial and minor compared to the lying that occurred throughout the trial from the state witnesses, including police. I believe pages 136-141 of this defense motion contains questions supplied to Alice Stubbs by the Cary police department.
Refuted evidence supplied by Jessica Adam: Jessica supplied police with several pieces of information in the first few days of Nancy’s disappearance, and they ran with them as FACT. They shouldn’t have blindly trusted her information because it was revealed during the trial that all of it was false. She said the Cooper’s only used All detergent (false); Nancy always wore her diamond pendant necklace (false); Nancy never ran with anyone without telling her (false); decorative ducks were missing from the foyer (false). Police and prosecutors presented the missing ducks as evidence of a struggle in the foyer. The ducks were in a box all along. They were never missing as the state suggested. Much of the information supplied by Jessica was likely used to get the indictment against Brad.
The hay: Officer Hazelhat testified that on July 15th he was stepping into the Cooper home and he noticed a piece of hay on the inside doormat. He said he had just been at the Fielding drive location and observed hay in the new construction areas. The hay was never mentioned, never photographed, never taken as evidence and not recorded in his notes until two years later. The prosecutors actually put him on the witness stand to testify about the piece of hay. It was ridiculous.
The trunk was showroom clean: Detective Daniels inspected Brad’s trunk on 7/12 and described it as “showroom clean”. SBI agents testified that dirt and debris were found in the trunk. Daniels testified that it must have been placed there after he inspected it. Video
More fabricated evidence: In 2010, two years after the murder, Detective Young took a pair of Brad’s shoes for soil analysis. They used the shoes he wore while searching for Nancy. The soil expert testified that she found mica on the shoes, but none of this had any significance to the case whatsoever, so why did the state waste time presenting this non-evidence? They were trying to fool the jury into thinking this was evidence of guilt, but it was not.
The affair: A good chunk of the state’s case consisted of presenting evidence that Brad had had an affair and Nancy was upset about it. It had nothing to do with the case. The affair ended in ’05, Nancy was told about it in late ’07 and it did contribute to her decision to divorce Brad, but it in no way provided a motive. I never understood the reason for asking over a dozen witnesses about the affair except that it was to waste time and drag out the trial to wear down the jury. During the marriage, Nancy had more affairs than Brad and that’s worth mentioning because he was subjected to so much character assassination over this.
Forensic protocols weren’t followed: I won’t go into a lot of detail because I thoroughly covered this in other posts, but police didn’t seize the computers properly, chain of custody wasn’t followed and recorded accurately, Brad’s computer was left on for 27 hours and within that time frame hundreds of files were changed. The police misconduct occurred with the careless mishandling of the computer and further when the alleged Google search of Fielding Drive was found, they neglected to verify that the search was done on Brad’s computer, even though the defense found and communicated to them that there was evidence of tampering. The FBI told Cary police to subpoena Google for the cookie records which would have verified and authenticated the search, but they neglected to follow through with the suggestion. They also could have verified the search through Cisco logs but they didn’t bother.
Nobody knows who planted the files on Brad’s computer (I personally believe police did) but several anomalies with the files indicate that they were indeed planted. The prosecutors made sure that none of the tampering evidence made it’s way into the trial. They convinced the judge to forbid both defense expert witnesses from testifying. What were they worried about? If they had a solid case, they should have been comfortable with ALL evidence from both sides being presented to the jury. I blame the judge for not allowing the testimony. We now know that it was the alleged (but unproven) Google search that convicted Brad Cooper. There wasn’t anything else, despite 10 weeks of testimony. That shows that the state wasted a great deal of the jury’s time and it explains the note that they sent to the judge part-way through the defense case stating “we want our lives back”. They were frustrated and worn out and wanted it to be over. None of the jurors has ever agreed to be interviewed so we really don’t know how they arrived at their unanimous decision but it is extremely puzzling to so many of us who watched this trial.
Judicial bias: Judge Gessner allowed so much hearsay testimony from the state witnesses, allowed the custody deposition to be played in court, and allowed the computer evidence to be presented by the state, even though it was clear that protocols weren’t followed and that spoliation was evident. He also allowed the prosecutors to use “national security” to get around the rules of discovery. Long before the trial began they presented an affidavit from an FBI agent stating National Security reasons exempting them from sharing the computer’s MFT (master file table) and extraction methods used to retrieve the data. The defense needed this information so they could recreate exactly what the FBI did to obtain the data. They needed to do this so they could cross examine the state witnesses on their findings. They were unable to do this and had to “guess” which tools may have been used to try to duplicate the process used. I have searched and have not found another case where National Security was used as an excuse to ignore proper discovery rules.
During the trial, exculpatory evidence was revealed when FBI agent Johnson was questioned on cross-examination. The computer had been tested for evidence of an automated phone call and it was determined that there was NO evidence of this. The defense didn’t learn of this until questioning this witness.
The judge also wouldn’t allow testimony that Bella Cooper saw her mother that morning. The jury never had the opportunity to hear that.
Update: On September 3, 2013 the NC Court of Appeals ordered a new trial based on the above unfair judicial rulings – the defense expert’s barred from testifying and the State using national security to prevent questioning about computer evidence that would have proven that tampering occurred.
This was an overview of the misconduct that I personally observed while watching this trial. It is unknown how much more may have existed. The sad thing is that despite all of this, the Cary town officials never initiated an investigation into the police misconduct. They stand behind them and consider the guilty verdict vindication, but it’s not. It only indicates that all of the misconduct, lying, ignored witnesses, fabricated evidence and destroyed evidence were effective in obtaining the guilty verdict they sought from the very beginning. Please take the time to read through the other blog posts and visit http://www.justiceforbrad.com to read through the other case summaries, particularly the computer evidence. If you are interested in helping, please consider making a donation at the website.