Brad Cooper trial: important “blacked out” testimony about Bella seeing her mother

Brad1I previously covered the fact that Judge Gessner refused to allow any information about comments made by Bella Cooper that morning. I’ve now had a chance to review a few parts of the trial transcript that were blacked out and I want to highlight the magnitude of the exclusion of this information because it had the potential to significantly influence the path of the investigation had it been pursued.

Clea Morwick was watching the two Cooper children the afternoon of July 12th, the day that Nancy Cooper disappeared.  At some point, Bella (age 4 1/2 at the time) told Clea that she saw her mother that morning and that she was wearing black shorts and a white T-shirt.  This is very important because it conflicts with the State’s very early theory – that Brad murdered Nancy after she returned from the party shortly after midnight.  The information actually supported the information that Brad provided to police – that Nancy went jogging at around 7 AM that morning. Please note how Detective Dismukes handled the information received from Clea.  It can be found in this portion of the transcript.

The significance of this is twofold.  First, because investigators dropped the ball after receiving this information and neglected to interview the child, it never became part of the investigation. Because they ignored this, it never led anywhere and it may have. Think about it. This information was known very early on, when Nancy was still missing.  Shouldn’t they have had a sense of urgency to speak to the child in the hopes that it would give them details about things Nancy may have said to her before leaving, or details about what she was wearing, or something that potentially could have helped find her?!  How is this good detective work?  Their goal at that time was to find Nancy Cooper, NOT to build a case against Brad!  But they chose the latter by ignoring this information.

This is where the investigation transgressed from shoddy to outright dishonest.  Do you think the detective would have questioned the child about this if she had said she witnessed the murder?  You can be certain that would have been the case. But since this information was counter to their theory, they simply dropped it and this was the first day and Nancy was missing!  They never pursued it.  End of story.  Is this the type of investigation you want your police department to conduct?   If you think about it, they were actually rewarded for doing a sloppy job.  They never were held accountable for this and at the end of the trial were praised by all of the town officials.

Secondly, the significance of the jury not having an opportunity to hear this is that it would have clearly demonstrated how the investigators made a huge error in ignoring this critical information that could have helped find Nancy Cooper. This was a pretty big thing to ignore!  The judge could have instructed the jury that the information is hearsay and can’t be offered as proof to the matter, etc., just like he did with all of the mounds of hearsay information that he allowed the State to present. Which is more important for the jury to hear – hearsay testimony from an exterminator that Brad had an affair, OR testimony that showed that Cary police made the decision not to interview a key witness in a murder investigation after learning that the information supported what Brad had told them? That’s an easy one, yet the exterminator’s testimony was allowed and the detective’s was not.  And this is one of many, many examples.  The State’s case was more about hearsay than anything else.

Remember that in the Jason Young case Judge Stephens permitted the daycare workers to testify about Cassidy’s actions soon after the murder.  He handled it by giving the jury instructions.  Judge Gessner could have handled the information from Bella in a similar fashion, but he chose not to, even though he allowed ALL of the State’s hearsay from multiple witnesses.  Very unfair.

Really stop and consider how each person received this information. First, the so called friends of Nancy. They knew of this information from Clea and instead of considering this, they continued to build a case against Brad by lying about missing ducks, a necklace, green juice, type of detergent the Coopers used and more. They should be ashamed. Then police knew of this information and did absolutely nothing, when they should have immediately interviewed the child to hopefully help find Nancy.  Then prosecutors barred the defense from receiving any additional details about whether or not Bella was interviewed.  And finally, the judge made sure the information would never be heard at the trial.  Is this the kind of justice we want?  Is this how you would want an investigation handled if you were suspected of a crime?

Remember, Brad’s story was supported by more than just Bella’s statements.  There were 16 witnesses who responded to the “missing” flyers and they believed they saw Nancy that morning.  Did police visit them and try to receive additional details to try to help find Nancy?  No.  They were more concerned about building a case against Brad than finding Nancy.  Police said this wasn’t significant because they didn’t personally know Nancy.  Well, Bella did!

And finally, a third item that supported Brad’s story was the fact that Nancy told three people at the party that she planned to go jogging the following morning.  How many people did she inform she was planning to paint at Jessica’s house?  Zero.  Who did investigators and prosecutors believe?  Jessica.  Who did investigators discount?  All 16 witnesses, Bella Cooper, the three witnesses from the party AND Brad himself.

Hopefully the jury will hear this evidence in the new trial.

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16 thoughts on “Brad Cooper trial: important “blacked out” testimony about Bella seeing her mother

  1. And to think that it was Prosecutor Howard Cumming who was in both Brad Cooper and Jason Young’s 2nd trial….Cassidy was 2 plus and Bella 4 1/2……interesting that in one case this was allowed and in the other one it was denied….and Howard made a different argument on both issues….but it was the same kind of situation for both….the state did not want the jury to hear that Bella has seen Nancy the morning she disappeared….but it was important that the jury knew that Cassidy did the doll fantasy play…..this along indicates that there is something ROTTEN..

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  2. Does anyone else think it odd that Judge Gessner actually outline the acceptable questions AND the subsequent answers? Talk about prosecuting from the bench….
    I have a very hard time with all the hearsay that was allowed in the trial, from Nancy’s friends, regarding what a terrible husband/father/person Brad was, but the jury couldn’t hear from Clea herself what Bella had said to her? Even Nancy’s mother was permitted to say “And then I knew he had done it”, but not one word about a witness seeing Nancy alive and dressed like the other 16 witnesses reported.
    I think you’re right Lynne, the detectives had already decided that Brad was guilty, and did their best NOT to follow any leads to the contrary.

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    • Yes, and what’s so disturbing is that it was immediate. From the time they received Jessica’s 911 call….Brad was convicted at that very moment. Nothing could stop it.

      Think about all the early things besides not interviewing Bella….Daniels saying “bed didn’t look slept in”(?!), they began following Brad, Bazemore not denying the rumor about Brad buying bleach, even though she knew he hadn’t, they ignored ALL evidence at the scene – tire tracks, footprints, let most of the bugs die by improperly storing them. Then there was the whole dress deception. Daniels wrote “long sleeves”, they made up “scratches on neck”. Sometimes I really can’t believe all of this happened.

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    • I’m not really sure, Albert. My guess is the State didn’t call her because they knew the defense would be able to question her about Bella. And possibly the Defense didn’t call her because she would have been a hostile witness, another Brad basher. (That is my guess).

      We want all the important facts out there though and the jurors should have heard how Cary police dropped the ball in such a significant way and at such a critical point in the missing person’s search for Nancy. This situation really demonstrated their agenda, which was building the case against Brad from the start.

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  3. I was stunned at the testimony of one of Nancy’s friend, who upon hearing Nancy was missing, that lady stayed home and called the police. I asked people around me, if you happened to know your friend is missing and know she was jogging the FIRST thing you do is take your bike, running shoes, or car and comb the street. That lady (I forgot the name) STAYED HOME!!!! Brad put the kids in the car and searched….whose behavior is out of the ordinary???maybe my memory is bad, but I pretty sure she did not look for Nancy instead she called the police!!!!

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    • Because nothing really supports the paint plan story, I think she made that whole thing up. I think she used it as an excuse to call police. I’ll always be suspicious of why she called police. Whether I liked my friend’s husband or not, if I was starting to really get worried, I would call him and say “hey, maybe you should call the police for some help in finding her”. I could NEVER implicate someone like that unless I knew they had harmed her in the past. She went a step further even and lied about so many things – missing ducks, green juice, necklace, runs with phone, All detergent. All of it was a giant mound of lies! There was nothing at all to indicate that she was ever afraid of Brad. None of this makes any sense. I really wish the “friends” would speak up, now that it’s obvious to everyone that Brad was completely railroaded.

      Early on, fine…maybe they thought he had something to do with it since the husband is always a suspect, but now it’s so clear that he was framed. Nothing connecting him to the murder except the Google search and there are multiple problems with that evidence. How can they sit by silently and let an innocent person suffer?

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        • I think the Taylor case helps raise awareness that this does happen. I think a lot of people are aware of how unfair Brad’s trial was having had the opportunity to watch it. Had we not been able to watch, we would never know what really went on, so I am grateful for that.

          I don’t have a law background, so it’s hard for me to guess how the appeals process will play out but I’m hoping the conviction is overturned in the first appeal and he is granted a new trial.

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  4. Those who know the Young case know that Jason Young has been as wronged as Brad Cooper, with a shoddy investigation that focused on him from the time of the 911 call. The Young case was very solvable on day one, but apparently it offends our senses to think a woman might be a killer of another woman. Thus, its easier to just to target the husband when a woman dies and twist the evidence to suit law enforcement’s theories rather than following the evidence to where it leaves.

    “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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    • I agree with you – that there are many problems with the Young case as well. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised…same county. I believe both men are innocent. I’ve written a few articles on the Young case and hope to do a few more when I find the time. You can read them here:
      http://stopwrongfulconvictions.wordpress.com/

      I also specifically compared the Young case to the Michael Morton case. They are very similar.

      I really wish there was an entity that could step in and review these cases. There are so many problems with both of them and to wait around through the appeals process is so difficult and so unfair.

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  5. http://www.statesman.com/news/local/former-prosecutor-apologizes-to-wrongfully-convicted-man-1974368.html

    Michael Morton’s wife was beaten to death in her own home. Police and prosecutors chose to not test DNA found in the house for years. Mr. Morton spent 25 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit simply because he was ‘guilty’ of being married to the victim and the prevailing mindset that the husband must have done it… Sound similar to Jason Young and Brad Cooper’s cases?

    I wonder if prosecutors might be a little more careful in the handling of their cases if they got to serve an equal amount of jail time as those who their sleazy tactics and witholding of key evidence helped wrongfully convict?

    In the Morton case, another woman was murdered by the real killer a couple of years after he’d killed Mr. Morton’s wife….. That woman’s life would have been saved, had law enforcement INVESTIGATED this crime and followed the evidence to the real killer instead of making the husband the primary suspect on day one.

    Law enforcement and prosecutors must be held accountable for their own stupidity. Being able to say “sorry” 25 years later isn’t enough. Until they are held individually responsible for the part they play in these wrongful convictions, these tragedies will continue to occur.

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  6. There needs to be a formal investigation into the unethical and malicious behavior of attorneys and Judges specifically in Wake County. This case and others have the hands of corrupt servants of the people that clearly use that power to destroy lives of innocent people, and those not deserving of the consequences of their actions.
    Alice Stubbs, Judge Christensen and others should be looked at with an electron microscope. Do not doubt Alice Stubbs had influence on the Judge in this case, as “the good ol boy network” is very powerful in the State of NC, and the corruption is like a fungus reaching and covering a large surface area of the judicial system in the State of NC and that poisoned arm reaches to law enforcement and the D.A. office.

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