This is a scary story involving a Google map, a murder, the Internet and network security experts who were not allowed to testify.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for former Cisco employee Bradley Cooper who, in 2011, was convicted of killing his wife.
The case against Cooper hung on a Google map that investigators found on his laptop computer, according to a 56-page document from the court of appeals first spotted by blogger Brad Reese.
That document tells this story: In 2008, Cooper and his wife were having marital problems. One morning, the wife went out running and never came back. The police found her body in a nearby park. She had been strangled.
They searched the couple's house and confiscated a laptop. That laptop, records showed, had been connected to the Internet before the police took it away.
On the laptop, the police found a Google map zoomed onto the exact spot where the murdered body was found. Investigators said the map search was done from Cisco's network the day before the murder.
Cooper's lawyers had a computer network expert prepared to testify that the Google file was planted on Cooper's laptop. But the state said the man wasn't qualified to testify. The lawyer then quickly found another expert who examined file and concluded it had "been placed on the hard drive [and] could not have been the result of normal Internet activity," the court document says.
This second expert also wasn't allowed to testify because, the state argued, he wasn't previously named as a witness. The court then ruled that Cooper's lawyers would not be allowed to call any witnesses who could show that the file could have been tampered with.
And in a really bizarre twist, the judge even ruled that national security would be comprised if the state's investigators had to answer questions about the techniques they used to find the Google Maps file on the laptop.
The jury never heard testimony about the file and convicted Cooper to life in prison without parole.
But now the appeals court has ordered a new trial where it looks like Cooper will get a chance to present that evidence after all.
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