Tue, 17 Dec 2013 18:30:07 GMT
A woman who was acquitted of murder after killing her ex-husband more than 20 years ago in South Florida is now facing charges of trying to kill her adult son — with the same gun.
Prosecutors in Las Vegas want a jury there to learn about the trial Linda Cooney won in 1993, when she was accused in the Feb. 7, 1992 shooting death of prominent Palm Beach County tax attorney James Cooney.
The testimony of Kevin Cooney, 11 at the time of the trial, was key to his mother's acquittal, according to Peter Magrino, the prosecutor who tried the case. James and Linda Cooney had divorced four years earlier, and she claimed she acted in self-defense when she shot him.
When Linda Cooney shot her ex-husband in 1992, Kevin Cooney told police he saw his fatally wounded father lying on the floor after he'd been shot. His hands were empty, he said. But during the trial, he told lawyers his father may have had something in his hands after all.
"Unfortunately, the children were at such a young age and had been so traumatized, it presented the prosecution with a problem in terms of the inconsistency of their statements," he said.
In June 2011, Kevin Cooney was on the receiving end of a bullet from the same .357 Magnum that killed his father. The gunshot left him paralyzed. But Las Vegas prosecutors are concerned Kevin Cooney will again emerge as his mother's best witness after she talked to him while he was recuperating in the hospital.
Linda Cooney, 64, is due in a Las Vegas courtroom Friday for a hearing to determine what, if anything, the jury will get to hear about the Palm Beach case. Defense lawyers say the jury should not be told because their client was found not guilty.
But prosecutor Michael Staudaher told Nevada District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez in an October hearing that the South Florida case helps explain the bizarre chain of events that allegedly led the mother to shoot her son.
According to court records, Kevin Cooney began dating Karina Taylor, a mixed martial arts fighter he met at a Halloween party in 2009, but did not reveal the relationship to his mother.
"His friends were telling me that I should not meet her because she was crazy and that it would cause nothing but problems," Taylor said, according to the transcript of a 2012 hearing.
When Linda Cooney finally met Taylor, she opposed the relationship, first sending the younger woman text messages saying the relationship was causing stress in the Cooneys' home.
That, according to a court document, was just the beginning of Linda Cooney's antagonism toward Taylor, and part of the reason Las Vegas prosecutors want the Palm Beach County case to figure in the upcoming trial.
Cooney is charged with stalking Taylor by sending her a series of hostile text messages — Cooney allegedly called Taylor a "stripper," "whore," "prostitute," "skank" and "succubus." She also reached out to a non-profit cancer-fighting organization where Taylor volunteered, telling the group's founder that Taylor was laundering money and dealing drugs, according to prosecutors.
Coupled with what Taylor learned about the Palm Beach case, prosecutors told the Las Vegas judge Taylor was in genuine fear of Cooney, and that tension over the relationship led to the shooting.
It was June 28, 2011, when police received two phone calls about a shooting in the Cooney home, according to court records. The first came from Kevin Cooney's younger brother, Chris, a Las Vegas police officer, at a little after 8:35 a.m. He said his brother attacked his mother and she shot him.
A second call, at nearly the same time, came from Linda Cooney, who said her son had been shot in the neck. She did not tell police who shot him.
Before they called 911, Chris and Linda Cooney were on the phone with each other for 15 minutes. During that call, according to court records, Chris also spoke to Kevin, who said he had been shot and could not feel his legs. According to Chris, the victim blamed himself for the shooting.
When police arrived, Linda Cooney cried every time she was asked who shot the victim. She never answered the question directly, though at one point, she said "The gun, it's my fault, it's my fault."
Days later, as he was being treated for his injuries, Kevin Cooney told several people his mother shot him.
In Nov. 2011, Chris Cooney visited his brother at the hospital and, according to prosecutors, used his cell phone to allow his mother to talk to his brother.
Kevin Cooney has been less cooperative with prosecutors ever since, and Linda Cooney was charged with bribing or intimidating a witness to influence testimony. Chris Cooney was not charged.
Taylor is continuing to cooperate with prosecutors, according to court records.
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