Appeals Court upholds murder conviction of Winston Co. woman

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the life sentence given Mary C. Cooper in 2006 for the murder of a man after an argument in Winston County.

Cooper was convicted of murder in Winston County Circuit Court in the shooting death of Derrick Edwards.

According to the court record, Edwards, Vincent Hudson and Joe Mack Speight were at Cooper’s trailer on Sept. 5, 2004. Hudson and Cooper began arguing, and Hudson testified that he “choked” Cooper “a little bit” and pushed her down.

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Hudson, Speight and Edwards then left Cooper’s trailer. Hudson and Edwards got into a Ford Explorer with Edwards in the driver’s seat.

Before they could drive away, gun shots were fired. Hudson testified that he ducked and after the shooting stopped, he sat up and saw Edwards dead in the driver’s seat.

Hudson testified he did not see who fired the shots.

Speight testified that he saw Cooper fire a pistol from the front door of her trailer at the Explorer. Cooper’s niece, Lee Hardy, also testified that she saw Cooper shoot from the front doorway of the trailer, according to court records.

In her testimony, Cooper denied that she had argued with Hudson or that any physical contact between herself and Hudson had occurred. She denied that she had fired a gun. She denied her cousin, Hardy, was at her trailer on the day of the shooting.

On appeal, Cooper said the judge should have let the jury consider that the killing of Edwards was manslaughter because it came in the heat of passion stemming from the fight with Hudson. She also said prosecutors didn’t prove she fired the fatal shots.

Appeals Judge Joseph Lee, writing Tuesday for the court, said there was nothing in the evidence to support a heat-of-passion instruction to the jury.

“Pushing or shoving is insufficient to require the instruction absent testimony that the defendant was acting out of violent or uncontrollable rage,” Lee wrote. “Additionally, Cooper denied shooting the victim. Cooper even went further and denied that any physical or verbal altercation took place.”

Lee said Cooper’s challenge to the evidence failed because there were eyewitnesses to her shooting at the vehicle.