Cary police influence medical examiner with misleading letter

Shortly after Nancy’s body was found, Investigator Grier mailed a letter to the medical examiner, Dr. Butts requesting a time of death and blood alcohol level.  What I only recently realized is that he stated in his letter that Nancy was last seen alive shortly after midnight the morning of July 12th.  She left the party at around that time and returned home, but Brad told police he last saw her that morning at around 7 AM, just before she left the house to go jogging, and Grier never mentioned that in the letter.

The medical examiner, believing she could possibly have died as early as “shortly after midnight”, determined the TOD to include the period shortly after midnight until noon.

RALEIGH — Dr. John Butts, who oversaw the autopsy of Nancy Cooper, testified Friday that she could have died anytime during a 12-hour period on July 12, 2008, which could support the theories of both the prosecution or defense.

Had Cary police not presented that time, completely misleading him since they had nothing to indicate that Brad Cooper was lying, I believe it is likely he would have estimated the TOD to be later and consistent with Brad last seeing her at around 7 AM.

The blood alcohol level was consistent with her having had several hours to metabolize it, caffeine was found in her system consistent with her having morning coffee, and her stomach was empty – indicating that she had 4-6 hours to digest all the food while she slept.

This among many things illustrates the immediate and focused case against Brad Cooper.  An ethical investigator would have provided the ME with ALL the information about when Nancy was last seen, NOT just the information that supported their theory.  This is unacceptable.

Please watch this short video of Grier’s testimony about the letter he sent to Dr. Butts.

2 thoughts on “Cary police influence medical examiner with misleading letter

  1. The impact of such an unethical letter to the medical examiner cannot be over-estimated. Dr John Butts had a distinguished and unimpeachable career as chief medical examiner of North Carolina. He is by all accounts a fine man. Why was it necessary at all to describe to an unbiased scientist ANYTHING about when Ms. Cooper was last seen alive? There is no justifiable explanation for this other than to inject confirmation bias into his findings. For example, giving Dr. Butts a working time frame has the effect of preventing the discovery of his making an honest mistake in his findings that can be later explained as a flaw in technique. If a scientist is given the body without any pre-existing knowledge, he is therefore required to come up with reliable tests to give himself satisfactory (to himself) data to form an opinion. Should he have given the opinion “well from my examination, the time of death was 9:30 PM”. and he can then be told, “that is impossible, the victim was seen alive three hours later than that”. The ME can then know that he was legitimately mistaken and can search for the reason for his mistaken conclusion. In every way then, this forensic opinion can be trusted as unbiased even if its end result is, “I cannot with a reasonable degree of certainty determine the actual time of death”. It is important to realize that this type of confirmation bias is the main reason why investigations are often flawed to the detriment of justice. It is similar to showing only one photo of a suspect and asking “have you seen this man?” Once this is done, the identification process has been completely “blown”. However, despite known inherent dangers with this type of investigative technique as evidenced by the hundreds of wrongful convictions secured by “confirmation bias” errors, jurors are allowed to use this information very incorrectly, to decide cases. It is unacceptable.


    • I agree. The proper thing would have been for him to simply request TOD and BAC. Then, as you mentioned if he determined a TOD, there could have been a discussion about when she was last seen. It really bothers me that they disregarded Brad’s statement of when he had last seen her. And as it turns out, it was supported in so many ways, including the 16 witnesses who believed they saw Nancy that morning jogging.

      There are just so many things like this in this case. I want people to understand this because this will continue.


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