The sports bra testimony that shouldn’t have been allowed

One of the most unbelievable, yet memorable parts of the trial was Teresa Hackeling’s testimony about the rolled up sports bra.  For those unfamiliar with the details, Nancy Cooper was found wearing only a sports bra and it was rolled up in the back.  Brad told police that Nancy left to go running at approximately 7AM the morning she disappeared. The State’s theory is that Brad murdered her in their home, dressed her in only a sports bra and then transported the body to a drainage ditch in a construction area on Fielding Drive.

The prosecutors wanted Ms. Hackeling to testify about her experiences with sports bras since she is female, she is a runner, she wears sports bras and she is a doctor.  According to prosecutors, the fact that she is a physician allowed them to share photos of the body with her.  What did they hope to gain with this testimony?  They wanted jurors to believe that since the sports bra was “rolled up” in the back, that must have indicated that someone else put it on Nancy because of course she would have straightened it had she dressed herself.   Seriously. Could this get anymore ridiculous?  Do you think the judge allowed this testimony?  Of course!  You can read the transcript about all of this, including the judge’s ruling here.

25 thoughts on “The sports bra testimony that shouldn’t have been allowed

  1. I keep thinking of the situation where Judge Gessner ruled on the old love letters “found on the kitchen table”. It could not have been made any more clearer that this judge was extremely biased in favour of the prosecution than at that moment. Despite his initial ruling that those letters were relevant because they were found “in close proximity” and subsequently finding out that the prosecution had been misleading, Gessner said that he would allow this material in to show that the Cary Police had conducted a thorough investigation. Instead of being angry at the prosecutors for making him look like an idiot, he went along with the railroading of Brad Cooper. You know it is very hard to win an acquittal even for a totally innocent man when every single ruling from the bench favours the state. Clearly this judge was informed of the impropriety of much of the “evidence” being put on by the prosecutors and did nothing to stop dishonest and unfair presentations of “evidence” to the jurors. It is my firm belief that Gessner should be disciplined for his role in the huge injustice perpetrated on Brad Cooper. He is very responsible for many people losing faith in justice in Wake County North Carolina.


    • Yes, Jim. I couldn’t believe it. Again, he justified it because the Defense accused the CPD of being corrupt and inept. I guess as a former LE officer he had to stick up for them instead of trying to be objective as his role should be as a Judge. He punished the Defense for even suggesting corruption, but we all saw it clear as day. The fact that the judge made these unfair rulings made an already bad situation that much worse.

      Here’s the video about the love letters:


  2. Finding problems with Judge Gessner in this case is like the Highway Patrol doing traffic stops for speeding on I40 west of Raleigh. You could just pick a spot and find something wrong. Just as the Highway Patrol could just pick out someone because everyone is speeding. Gessner had a personal interest in this case. I suspect that he is very good friends with Judge Debra Sasser who awarded custody of Brad’s children based on testimony at a hearing which Brad was not asked to attend or was even aware that it was happening. Nancy’s friends and family ripped Brad to pieces with lies about selfishness and starving his family. The truth finally came out about Nancy’s BMW, the Tiffany jewelry collection, and Nancy’s spending habits. If Brad had been acqutted, Sasser would have looking like a complete fool and her chances for winning another election would have been in serious doubt.

    It is interesting that as much was said about Brad to justify taking his children, the prosecution failed to use those lies about selfishness and starvation during the trial.

    Brad’s conviction was based on cops helping cops, corrupt judges helping corrupt judges, and corrupt and dishonest prosecution to keep the CPD from looking completely inept and dishonest.


  3. Judge Sasser is an even bigger moron that Gessner if that can be believed. She was responsible for dismissing charges against 2 law enforcement officers who had beaten another man outside a Raleigh Restaurant. The reason? Prosecutors forgot to mention the assault took place in WAKE COUNTY, rather than in Raleigh (last time I checked Raleigh is in Wake County. Her blatant prejudice in favor of law enforcement is right there in Gessner’s judicial manual. DA Willoughby successfully appealed this gross miscarriage of justice on Sasser’s “technicality. In another instance, she truly showed her care and concern for children by awarding a custody arrangement where an 18 month old baby was exchanged between mother and father every 24 hours. What an idiot!


    • That’s interesting, Jim. It was obvious in Brad’s case that there was NO evidence to support the removal of those kids from his custody. It was outrageous that they were taken from him.

      The other cases you mentioned sound awful too. It’s sad that this is what we have to deal with here.


  4. Didn’t he and his lawyers come to an agreement directly with the wife’s family to keep the kids with the grandparents and aunt from July to October 2008 days after the kids were removed? Then the case was heard by Sasser in October and wasn’t he arrested like a week later? Those poor kids were going to need a new home anyway.


    • No, Albert. The family went to a judge to take temporary legal custody. Brad would not have given up his kids.

      The thing to remember about them taking his kids away is that it put the suggestion out there that “he MUST be guilty” and this was just a day after Nancy was found. From that time forward Brad was guilty in many peoples eyes. Public perception is so important and this was very harmful to Brad Cooper.

      Just before the custody ruling was made, Bazemore made the public statement that “this is not a random crime”, implying that it was Brad. That gave justification to the custody ruling and we all know now that Bazemore’s statements were 100% unfounded. Things just snowballed from there but it started with Jessica Adam’s comments on the 911 call and then shortly after, Bazemore’s. It is so scary that their words were taken as truth when little was known at that time about what happened to Nancy. This should never happen. Investigators should have kept an open mind about everything. They failed. It was complete tunnel vision. We all can see that now.


      • I remember this now. The grandparents got temporary emergency custody which lasted about a week until a hearing on July 25. On that day the hearing didn’t happen because the parties came to a mutual agreement to keep the kids with the grandparents for the next 3 months. The next hearing date was scheduled for later in Oct and then Brad got arrested a week or so after that.


      • I got the word for word of the Bazemore comments from each press conference. Bazemore was asked one time by a reporter on July 15.

        Q: “Chief, do you believe that this was a RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE?”

        PB: “We do not believe this was a random act of violence.”

        That means whoever did the act meant to do it and meant to do it to the victim.

        In every other statement Bazemore never used the word random. She said “we believe this is an isolated incident” at least half a dozen times over all the conferences. It was a reporter who asked about a random act of violence. Bazemore never said “this is not a random crime.”

        Emergency custody occurred a day after Bazemore said they would not have any more press conferences or make any more statements until an arrest was made. Sasser did consider the murder in making the emergency decision.


        • I don’t quite understand what you are saying about Chief Bazemore’s comments about “we do not believe this was a random act of violence”. Clearly what was being asked by the reporter was should the community regard the streets safe for jogging. Clearly at this point of the investigation, she should have stated that indeed there was a possibility that joggers were being grabbed from the streets because that was the information that was out there by how many witnesses that actually claimed to have seen Nancy Cooper? Instead she made a clear implication that the crime was already solved. Wrong wrong.


          • Here’s her word for word about the community safety.

            Q: “When you say it’s “isolated,” can you expand upon that because I think the community is concerned about safety and they’d like to know more about that.”

            PB: “We do not believe that this case is connected to any other cases…we do believe it’s an isolated incident. If at any point that does change we will do everything possible to make sure our community is aware of that, but for us right now, it is an isolated incident.”

            Q: “Do you believe you have a murderer roaming the streets, looking for women jogging or anything like that?”

            PB: “What I can tell you is we have had a murder, we have not arrested anyone, but we do not believe that it’s not safe for our community to go out and jog and be out in the community doing the things that they enjoy.”


  5. Oops this is the bra topic. Sorry got off track. Wasn’t the bra rolled under in the back (not up)? Should that have been ignnored by the prosecutors?


    • Yes. That’s pretty subjective. Don’t you think?

      In fact, the whole insinuation that BC dressed Nancy in only a bra is beyond ridiculous. No one would do that. Don’t you think her being found like that is much more consistent with an attack while jogging?


      • And furthermore, they spent time on a rolled up sports bra but no effort following up on an obvious alternate suspect. And no effort following up on witnesses who may have seen her. The whole thing was beyond shoddy.


  6. The condition of the body, what she was found wearing and the positioning of the one item of clothing is part of the evidence. It’s not an insinuation that Nancy was only in a bra, she was literally only in a bra and diamond earrings when found.

    If Brad killed her he left her body that way whether anyone thinks its ridiculous to do that. If someone else killed her then they did something with her clothes and shoes after grabbing her.

    It’s ultimately up to the jury to decide what the condition of the body means, what a rolled under jog bra means, how much it means, and how much weight to give it, if any. The jury can believe the state’s version, the defense’s version, or they can decide neither version is correct.


    • My question to Albert then is what version do you buy? Does it make any sense to you at all that Brad Cooper would actually put a bra on his wife and nothing else? Wouldn’t he have “done a better coverup job” by dressing her in the white shirt and dark shorts and leaving her runners on? Doesn’t it make much more sense to examine very carefully the other evidence at that scene where the body was found? Isn’t this defense “theory” about the bra just a little too ridiculous and extremely weak in terms of meaning anything? And in this case, the jurors didn’t declare what they believed about the defense’ postulations other than the google map search which admittedly was a very compelling smoking gun but that we (not the jury) know has undeniable proof by the foremost forensic computer expert in the US that it was “planted”? This is what is wrong with the statement about what the jury can “choose” to believe. No jury should choose to believe anything conjectured by anyone when there is insufficient proof in its reliability.


      • “My question to Albert then is what version do you buy? Does it make any sense to you at all that Brad Cooper would actually put a bra on his wife and nothing else?”

        Jim, I haven’t seen the evidence. There are photos showing all of this. Without seeing the evidence I don’t know. Nothing about murder makes sense to me.

        How much weight did the jury give to the bra evidence anyway?


  7. Not to mention no effort in actually thoroughly investigating the only KNOWN crime scene where there was wire that could have been used as a ligature, tire tracks, boot prints and a cigarette butt that they tested too late to render any viable DNA evidence. What can be truly stated now in hindsight is how desperate they were to portray the “thorough investigation” and the wacky “theories” about Brad dressing his dead only that bra. There is no question that the Cary Police, Alice Stubbs from Tharrington Smith were in collusion with Judge Debra Sasser to find Brad guilty well before the least at the civil level. Sasser was an attorney with Tharrington Smith. and the use of civil courts to circumvent the fifth amendment rights of defendants is a tried and true tactic in Wake County. Please examine the same situation with Jason Young where he was blasted by jurors, the public and the media for following his lawyer’s (ironically from Tharrington Smith working for the defendant this time) for not going after custody of his child. Brad Cooper fought for custody and he was arrested based on one single discrepancy in his civil deposition versus his actual computer use on the night before Nancy disappeared.(a discrepancy that anyone would easily make).


      • I think the body was too decomposed to say definitively. That doesn’t change the fact that evidence was *ignored*. How is it that you aren’t bothered by that? I know. I think I was right that you are retired LE.


          • I agree that the medical examiner said there was no indication that a ligature was used but that it could not be excluded due to the condition of the body. I would ask, if there were no bullet holes or other evidence the victim had been shot but a gun was found near the body, would you have it tested for DNA or prints? I think so. You must remember it took time to render opinions from the ME office. and an item such as a potential murder weapon should have been tested. This is just a small example of where any investigation that may have pointed away from Brad Cooper was buried. I cannot think of too many cases where the actual crime scene (the only known crime scene) was so shoddily investigated. In any event, the “sports bra” testimony article is not about the “actual” evidence. It was there, in pictures and in testimony of the actual fact of its positioning (rolled under at the back). Certainly jurors have the right and need to see this evidence and the opportunity to weigh its value. What is clearly wrong is the extra “oomph” given to that evidence as provided by the “Doctor” and allowed by Judge Gessner as some sort of “expert opinion” on the proper way of wearing a jogging bra. This was completely an attempt to render this almost useless piece of evidence to have far more significance that it should have. Can you imagine the discussion in the jury room? Most men would say they would go along with the notions put forward by the physician who wears jogging bras would they not? I know of a case where this same judge would not permit an emergency room Dr. from testifying about injuries he sees every day in the ER. Gessner’s reason “he has no forensics training”. This Dr.’s testimony carried far more weight than say the opinion of Detective Daniels.who has forensics training but has likely never worn a sports bra. Should not have been permitted. It is only a small example of a whole trial replete with rulings that allowed the prosecution to paint a thoroughly painstaking picture of what they believed occurred with the fraudulent complicity of Judge Gessner.


  8. Thanks for blogging on the many important parts of this trial, Lynne. I think you’re doing a tremendous job distilling the relevant bits from the trial, and keeping them fresh in our minds, so to speak. I must admit that the evidence of the poor quality of the investigation still bothers me a great deal.
    Part of me still wants to cling to the notion “but they’re law enforcement, they’re unbiased and thorough” despite knowing from watching Brad’s trial (and reviewing your blog) that the investigation and prosecution were absolutely NOT fair or comprehensive, they were anything but. It really frightens me that these people have the power to completely desecrate someone’s life and there’s no one to stop them and hold them accountable because the judge was complicit in the railroading of Brad Cooper. The system is so broken, obviously, and I keep hoping that there will be justice eventually, and I hope that Brad is somehow able to recover when it’s all been righted.
    I believe that the testimony regarding the bra was trying to manufacture evidence when there really wasn’t any. Who’s to say, without guessing, that the bra was rolled under from when it was put on or if it ended up rolled under after a struggle or after the murderer used it to lift her body? I think this particular testimony was total speculation.


    • For TW. Please do not think you are wrong to believe that law enforcement are unbiased and thorough (at least most of the time) No one is saying that all police and all prosecutors and all judges are corrupt and dishonest. Heck we are not even saying that about these police, prosecutors and judge that they are corrupt and dishonest ALL the time. We are saying that in Brad Cooper’s case and other cases within Wake County there seems to be a pattern forming where the powers that be believe “the end justifies the means”. To understand the phenomenon, one has to understand the tremendous pressure folks like Bazemore, Daniels Young and Dismukes are under to solve these crimes, particularly when that pressure comes in the form of “community safety”. It is very clear from the Cooper case of how an investigation of a murder can get quickly off on the wrong track. Within hours of Nancy Cooper’s disappearance, police had been given motive for Brad Cooper to kill his wife. He had the opportunity and the means (big strong guy). The focus on him was immediate and intense and quickly became a case of “tunnel vision”. The situation thus became one where not just Brad Cooper was on trial, but so was the Cary Police, the Wake County DA’s office and also Judge Gessner. They were on trial in the court of public opinion which demands that LE be “tough on crime”. It has been demonstrated since time immemorial what humans will do to other humans when placed under the microscope and the organization of a quasi military structure like exists with the CPD. Please think of that fine looking young cop who testified about seeing straw in the Cooper hallway. Seemed like a nice ordinary cop you would enjoy meeting at the coffee shop. Did he lie? Or was he doing what he thought was best?. Just remember 9/11, Nuremburgh and Rowanda to recognize that good people will do atrocious things under the guise of moral correctness. This is all that has happened here. We are lucky that this has happened in Wake County (although Brad is suffering). Here we can see a clear example where officials trying to do the “right thing” have clearly gotten out of hand. There is obvious prejudice and bias in the judge’s rulings. There is misconduct on the part of prosecutors and there is lying not only by LE on the stand but also by ordinary citizens, neighbours and friends. Our job is to examine all this with an objective eye to discern where there is wrongdoing and it is clear from the Cooper case that we have much to do to correct this system.


      • Jim, thanks for your reply. If I understand you correctly, you believe that the community pressures on the police, DA and judge are what “encouraged” them to have tunnel vision and to conduct a dishonest investigation and prosecution. I agree with you, as I think there has to be some motivation for all these folks to make the choices that they did.
        I’d like to play the devil’s advocate for a moment, and question how that community might have reacted if there had been another similar murder in Cary in the period of time following Nancy’s murder? Would the investigators or police chief have eaten some crow and admitted that they were wrong and that they had focused on the wrong suspect to the exclusion of all other possibilities? We’ll never know, but it makes for an interesting consideration.
        As I see it, they decided right from the time of Jessica Adam’s call to police that Brad must be the perpetrator, and they never wavered from that position, even when they had to “finesse” the evidence (or LIE) to make it work. To me, the Google search is analogous to the planted blood spatter evidence in the vehicle in the OJ Simpson investigation. LE “knew” they had their man, but weren’t sure they could make the charges stick, so they bolstered their case with some planted evidence.
        Doesn’t this make you wonder how often such things happen? I get that there is immense pressure, however, many people in the same jobs in other locations don’t lie and plant evidence to get the job done. I guess my response to pressure in my job is to do the very best that I can do, not to be dishonest so that I can look good to my community, and I guess I expect that same effort from the people who investigate and prosecute murderers. People who are confident in their abilities to do their job effectively don’t generally feel compelled to lie about how they do it, no matter who is judging their performance. jmho


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