Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cooper II: A better sequel

What does that mean for 30-year-old, double-murder defendant Fred Cooper of Bonita Springs?

Cooper II, which started Tuesday in St. Petersburg, won't take three weeks like Cooper I did in Fort Myers.

Attorneys will refine their attack and throw more jabs than left hooks.

"The good thing is everybody's been to the dance before," says John Shearer Jr., retired attorney and judge. "It should be a lot cleaner trial. They can avoid the areas that hurt them. They know the questions they asked that they shouldn't have.

"Jurors deliberated 32-plus hours in October before deciding they couldn't decide if Cooper shot Steven Andrews and strangled Michelle Andrews in December 2005 in their Gateway home. Both were 28.

Judge Thomas Reese declared a mistrial and later moved the second trial to St. Pete because of media coverage.

Shearer, 64, was a defense attorney for 32 years and a circuit judge for five.

He says moving a trial used to mean going to Sarasota or Naples - but nowadays that's too close.

"That's what bothers me in this modern media community we live in," he says about the Internet. "The farther you go away the better unless it's a nationally blown-up trial.

"Then you can't hide."

Jurors told The News-Press the split was 9-3 or 8-4 for conviction in Cooper I. Jurors also said they were leery of the death penalty.

"I think that jurors have always done that," Shearer says about capital punishment affecting always done that," Shearer says about capital punishment affecting decisions.

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