State won't seek death penalty in murder of Daniel Cooper

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By Shavonne Potts and Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for three suspects charged in the May 21 murder of Daniel Cooper.
Cooper’s family members at the Monday afternoon hearing were not happy with the decision, though they were notified ahead of time.
The decision was made in a Rule-24 hearing in Rowan County Superior Court to determine whether the district attorney’s office would seek the death penalty. After reviewing statutory aggravating factors, it was determined to proceed without capital punishment.
Darius Jamal Smotherson, Damarick Lamar Harper and Reginald Javae Clark have all been charged with first-degree murder.
Cooper was shot in an apparent robbery attempt in Kannapolis. He was sitting in the passenger seat of a Honda on Snow Street when he was shot in the neck. The driver of the Honda drove away from the scene and pulled into a nearby home on West 22nd Street.
Cooper later died of his injuries at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast.
Cooper’s mother, Laura Tucker, who was emotional throughout the hearing, wiped away tears.
“We were really looking for that,” Tucker said about the death penalty. “I hate to say it that way.”
“We’re going to pay for them to live the rest of their lives. It’s rotten,” she said.
Todd Cooper, Daniel’s father, felt the shooting was premeditated because he said the suspects called his son before the shooting.
It’s easier for the district attorney’s office to not pursue the death penalty, he said.
Smotherson, 19, was the first suspect authorities identified in the shooting and last to be taken into custody. He was arrested June 26 getting off a bus that had just pulled into a Maryland welcome center.
Harper, 17, was charged May 28, a week after the shooting following a short foot chase with police. Authorities said at the time of his arrest, Harper’s family was on their way with him in a car to turn himself in when he jumped from the vehicle.
Superior Court Judge W. David Lee said because Harper is 17 years old, he is ineligible for the death penalty.
Clark, 35, was picked up and charged June 14, nearly a month after the shooting.
Kannapolis Police have said they believe Smotherson may have shot Cooper.
Clark, Harper and Smotherson are also charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Cooper was a senior at A.L. Brown High School. The shooting occurred just days before his 18th birthday and weeks before he was to graduate.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.