Cope found guilty of first-degree murder - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Cope found guilty of first-degree murder

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CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) -

Christopher Brian Cope has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Shreveport Police Sgt. Timothy Prunty. A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated just more than an hour before returning the verdict.

Cope now faces the death penalty. The sentencing phase of trial will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.  Under Louisiana law, the sentencing phase can't begin until 12 hours after the verdict is read.

Cope is accused of gunning down Prunty outside a southwest Shreveport convenience store in October 2010.

After hearing six days worth of evidence and argument, the jury deliberated for one hour and 10 minutes.

Moments after hearing the verdict, Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott confessed that the trial had been difficult for prosecutors, both procedurally and emotionally.

"It was a difficult because there were a lot of issues involved in the case of course, procedural as well as others. Of course every capital case is difficult."

When asked if the difficulty was because of what was on the line, Scott said, "Well, that and everything has to be just so."

Prunty had been a 19-year-veteran of the Police Department when he was shot and killed.

According to KSLA News 12's Fred Childers, who was in the courtroom during the reading of the verdict, Cope showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was announced.

Neither did Cope's family members, who watched intently as each juror was polled for his or her vote.

The Caddo Parish Courthouse courtroom was packed as the verdict was read. Afterward, according to procedure, deputies immediately cleared the courtoom.

In his closing arguments Tuesday, Prosecutor Dale Cox said Cope meant to kill Prunty.

Cox cited several reasons in support of his case, including that Cope had a fully loaded gun and that he shot every bullet. Cox added that Cope continued to shoot at Prunty after Prunty had fallen to the ground.

Cox also told jurors that Cope meant to kill more than one person, pointing his firearm at the Circle K convenience store clerk who was standing next to Prunty. Prunty told her to run.

Cox said of Prunty's order, "His last act was to save someone else and to not save himself."

Meanwhile, Cope defense attorney Brian Whitaker told the jury to consider all the evidence before them.

Whitaker raised several questions about the medical care Prunty received on the night he was shot. Prunty bled to death, according to a coroner's autopsy.

For these reasons, Whitaker argued that the crime does not rise to the level of first-degree murder and that it would not meet the level of capital punishment, which is what Cope would face if he is found guilty.

Earlier, before closing arguments, the defense and the prosecution spent the morning wrangling over whether to allow testimony from a medical expert called by the defense.

The defense and the prosecution spent the morning wrangling over whether to allow testimony from a medical expert called by the defense.

Cope's defense attorneys wanted to question Dr. James Lauridson, a forensic pathologist, about the survivability of Sgt. Prunty's wounds. The prosecution argued Dr. Lauridson was not qualified to testify as an expert witness, based on lack of expertise and knowledge of the case and crime scene.

Lauridson was ultimately allowed to testify, but only to the survivability if the officer's wounds, and not to Cope's intent.

Sgt. Prunty was shot five times in all, three times in the backs of his legs and once in each foot. Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma has testified that the wounds were not survivable, and that Prunty bled to death.

Dr. Lauridson testified that Prunty could have survived his wounds if compression had been applied to the artery behind Prunty's kneecap almost immediately. Instead, emergency responders focused on Prunty's femoral artery, further up his leg, believing that's where all the bleeding was coming from.

Copyright 2012 KSLA. All rights reserved.

SIDEBAR: Cope trial continuing coverage

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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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