Judge declares mistrial in penalty phase of Cope trial - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Judge declares mistrial in penalty phase of Cope trial


The judge in the Christopher Cope trial declared a mistrial in the penalty phase when jurors informed the court that they remain deadlocked at 7-5. The decision means Cope will not face the death penalty.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty in a case in which a jury agreed that Cope gunned down Shreveport Police Sgt. Timothy Prunty back in October 2010. The jury's guilty verdict came Tuesday.

Jurors began deliberations Thursday shortly after 4 p.m. and returned for the final time today at about 4:45 p.m. to declare no hope to resolve the deadlock.

The nephew of the slain sergeant, Matthew Prunty Jr., had some choice words to describe his reaction to the deadlocked jury.

"My family and I were sad and disgusted. What worse of a crime can you commit than killing a police officer? It's a slap in the face to my uncle and to every other law enforcement officer out there for not giving the man death. It's a disgrace."

Asked about whether solace is possible given that Cope will never be free again, Matthew Prunty says, "No. No, I do not because his family and stuff will be able to see him in prison. ... I'm not going to get to see my uncle ever, and his family will still get to see him."

Caddo District Court Judge Mike Pitman had the jury polled to ask whether further deliberation might help determine a different outcome, and the result was unanimous that more discussions would not make a difference.

Asked about whether sympathy for Cope might have been a factor in the lack of a unanimous verdict, assistant prosecutor Bryan O'Calaghan said: "It's hard to speculate what might be in a particular juror's mind. I think that it's a strategy to try to develop sympathy. We do not feel that it factored into the choices that the defendant made in committing this crime."

Part of the sympathy would have come from a narrative the defense had when they talked about Cope's mental ability. Cope has an I.Q. of 77.

Judge Pitman ordered Cope to return Nov. 8 at 1:30 p.m. for formal sentencing of his first-degree murder conviction.

For the young Prunty, a deadlocked jury means that justice has not been served.

"For the past two years, I was here every day, and, um, hoping the law would do what it's supposed to, justice. And it didn't. And uh, you know, sometimes you just lose faith in the system."

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SIDEBAR: Cope trial continuing coverage


Continuing coverage in the criminal trial of Christopher Cope, charged with 1st degree murder in the shooting death of Shreveport Police Sgt. Timothy Prunty, a 19-year-veteran of the force. More>>

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