Howard Kurtz blasts Wake DA Candidate Boz Zellinger

Zellinger Cooper
In a last minute attack ad of sorts, Howard Kurtz, one of Brad Cooper‘s defense lawyers has a video up on his firm’s website lambasting Boz Zellinger for referring to the Cooper conviction in campaign literature. Zellinger has cited Cooper’s 2011 “conviction” as evidence of Zellinger’s skill and experience as a prosecutor.

Cooper is the Cary man who was convicted in 2011 of murdering his wife, Nancy. The trial was one of the most expensive in Wake County history. More about that below.

Kurtz correctly notes that Cooper’s conviction was overturned unanimously by the Court of Appeals and sent back for a new trial. While Cooper is still in custody, a new trial is expected in the matter.

Kurtz makes the specific allegation that rather than this being a procedural problem, Zellinger’s “dishonesty” (Kurtz’s words, not mine) resulted in an unfair trial. The Court of Appeals central holding was that, because Cooper was unable to have an expert witness testify as to issues related to a Google map search found on Cooper’s computer of the area where Nancy’s body was found, Cooper was denied a fair trial.

Cooper’s case is not the only Zellinger prosecution that has been sent back for re-trial. Joshua Stepp was convicted of first degree murder in the death of his step-child. He will face re-trial, assuming the North Carolina Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeals’ 2-1 decision that Stepp’s first trial was flawed.

Kurtz
Kurtz claims in his video (see above) and blog post that this is, in part, an issue of taxpayer expense. The problem with this argument is that Kurtz himself was perhaps the largest single expense associated with this case. Kurtz attempted to bill the state for 2,921 hours over a three year period. The state ended up paying Kurtz $233,116 as a legal fee for 2,429 hours. Much smaller amounts went to his co-counsel, and for defense-related expenses.

To put that in context, “a recent study of capital cases showed that only 1 percent of the cases cost more than $200,000 for Indigent Defense.”

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.