EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bradley Cooper, Google Maps & Expert Testimony, Take 2: Supreme Court Review?

Last week, I posted an entry about the Bradley Cooper case out of North Carolina. Readers will recall that this was the case in which Bradley Cooper was convicted of the murder of his wife after, inter alia, the prosecution presented into evidence a Google Maps search conducted on the defendant's laptop. The searcher "entered the zip code associated with Defendant's house, and then moved the map and zoomed in on the exact spot on Fielding Drive where Ms. Cooper's body was found."

The trial judge precluded the defendant from presenting expert evidence tending to indicate that someone planted the Google Maps search on Cooper's computer, and the Court of Appeals of North Carolina concluded that this decision was erroneous. Moreover, the appellate court found that the error was serious enough to award Cooper a new trial.

Now, "Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that he will petition the state Supreme Court to review the recent N.C. Court of Appeals decision ordering a new trial for Brad Cooper."  Will theNorth Carolina Supremes bite?

Basically, the State's appeal will be successful if the State can prove one of two things: (1) that the trial judge did not commit error; or (2) that the error was not sufficiently prejudicial to require reversal. On this latter ground, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina concluded that

"(T)here is a reasonable possibility that, had the error in question not been committed, a different result would have been reached at the trial out of which the appeal arises...."

Could the State prove otherwise? Again, according to the Court of Appeals,

"Absent [the Google Maps  evidence], the evidence connecting Defendant to this crime was primarily potential motive, opportunity, and testimony of suspicious behavior...."  

Without seeing the entire evidentiary record in the Cooper case, I would have to think that this conclusion means that the State faces a tall task.

(Hat tip to Rose Zoltek-Jick for the link)



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