The Norman Transcript

June 11, 2013

Prosecutors begin jury selection in manslaughter case

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Prosecutors began questioning individuals called in for jury duty on Monday to select a jury for a manslaughter trial in Cleveland County District Court.

Defense attorneys will continue the questioning at 9 a.m. today in District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s courtroom. Twelve jurors will be chosen from the group of nearly 25.

The State’s prosecution lawyer asked the individuals questions pertaining to the case to try to choose an impartial jury for both the state and the defense.

Some of the questions included whether any of the individuals had been involved with criminal cases; if they could listen to people’s testimonies, even if those testifying had made bad choices in their lives or if they didn’t like their appearance; whether they owned guns and, if so, how to handle them; and if they had ever been shot or seen anyone shot before.

Somewhat of a curveball came from one of the potential jurors when the courtroom learned he had seen someone shot before and had been shot himself.

The individual said he had gone up the street to watch a fight when he was 14, during which someone shot a gun. The man said he believed a fragment of the bullet ricocheted and hit him in his lower rib. The man never went to the hospital or told family or police about the incident.

The same man also said he had seen one of his high school classmates get shot in the head by a gang member as he and a friend were leaving a party. The man said he never talked to police because of fear of the gang member, but he said the gang member was later killed.

Everyone in the courtroom seemed to be relieved when the man said the incidents occurred where he grew up in Los Angeles.

When prosecution asked him if he believed those events would have any kind of impact on him throughout the course of the trial, he replied, “No, that was almost 30 years ago.”

Age also played a factor in the questioning of the potential jurors Monday. Since the defendant is a 21-year-old male, prosecutors asked if the defendant reminded anyone of their son, nephew, cousin, friend, etc. Although some of the individuals had sons around the defendant’s age, none said that would influence them in determining whether he was guilty.

However, one potential juror had just graduated high school and he said if it came down to punishing him, the punishment would most likely be on the lower end of the spectrum because not only is he close in age, but he has also seen friends get in trouble with the law.

When prosecution asked the young potential juror if he believed his friends were treated fairly, he said yes.

The spectrum of punishment for the defendant ranges from four years in prison to a life sentence.

Other questions were agreed on unanimously, such as if they believed someone should be held responsible for their actions, even if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Everyone believed that, yes, that person should be held accountable.

As for the trial itself, attorneys told everyone it is expected to last about a week and could potentially stretch into next week.

Background information: The defendant, Cole Dean Hopper, 21, of Oklahoma City, was initially charged with the murder of Kelsey Bransby, 19. That charge has since been downgraded to manslaughter.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the charge, Oklahoma City police officers were responding to a call of an unresponsive female at the Hunt apartment complex, 3040 SW 89th St., in October 2011.

When officers arrived, they saw Bransby with an apparent gunshot wound near her left eye, the affidavit said. She was transported to the hospital, where she died the next day.

After investigation, Hopper and Danielle Marie Cooley were located and transported and brought in for questioning in May 2012. Cooley admitted she was at the apartment with both Bransby and Hopper when Bransby was shot, the affidavit said.

“She said she was watching TV in the living room and not really paying attention to Cole and Kelsey. Danielle said Cole and Kelsey were playing around when she heard one gunshot. She said Cole screamed out Kelsey’s name,” the affidavit said.

Cooley then told the detective she and Hopper panicked and left the scene without calling 911. She also admitted to standing up a detective for several follow-up interview attempts.

“She admitted she was on drugs at the time of Kelsey’s death,” the affidavit said.

Cooley also said she believed the shooting was an accident and she didn’t know what Hopper did with the gun after Bransby was shot, the document said.

Hopper talked to detectives on the same day. He denied being present when Bransby was shot, but when he realized detectives may have spoken to Cooley about what happened, he asked what his options were. He requested an attorney and the interview was terminated, the affidavit said.

Court records show that Cooley, 22, was convicted of accessory to second-degree murder after the fact after pleading guilty in November 2012. Cooley was sentenced to 25 years with credit for her time served of six months in the Cleveland County Detention Center.