Jury: Ironton man guilty of murder

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Was it an act of self defense by a desperate individual or an unwarranted killing by an angry man?

A seven-woman, five-man Lawrence County Common Pleas Court jury on Thursday decided it was the latter.

The jury deliberated approximately three hours before deciding William Cooper, 48, of

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Porter Gap Road, was guilty of the murder of Scott Marcum and the felonious assault against Orlan J.R. Harper Jr.

Each of those convictions carry a gun charge, meaning additional prison time will be added to whatever sentences are handed down when Cooper learns his punishment next Wednesday.

Several members of the family uttered a gasp and then began to cry when Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown read the verdict.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier said he was satisfied with the trial’s outcome.

“I’ve talked with the family. I think they’re pleased with the verdict. This was the tragic loss of a son, a loved one. But I think the family feels justice was done and the criminal justice system worked this time,” Collier said.

Cooper’s attorney, Rick Faulkner, said he did not know if an appeal will be filed. “I’ve got to talk to Bill first,” he said.

Asked his thoughts on the verdict, he replied, “I’m kind of surprised.”

Thursday’s proceedings began with closings arguments after the defense rested its case.

Collier told the jury that the murder of Marcum and the wounding of Harper was “absolutely uncalled for. There is no legal excuse for what happened. The defense claims Mr. Cooper acted in self defense but I submit to you this is not a self-defense case.”

Collier said Cooper knew the night of July 1 that his son was extremely intoxicated and angry, but when William “Bub” Cooper Jr., asked for a gun so he can shoot the friends with whom he is angry, Cooper made the wrong decisions instead of the right one.

“Does he call the law? No. He should have. Does he keep his son there (at his house)? No. What he did was take a pistol and follow his son up the hollow to Fred Sisler’s house.”

But Faulkner said in his closing statement that much of the prosecution’s case against William Cooper rested on the testimony of people known to be drunk at the time of the shootings — people, he said, whose stories of what happened the night of July 1 are full of discrepancies.

“How did the blood get on Bill Cooper’s shirt if he (J.R. Harper) wasn’t close to the car?” Faulkner asked.

Faulkner urged the jury to consider the panic Cooper was experiencing the night of July 1 as he saw his son had been assaulted, heard his daughter-in-law had been calling for help and feared for his life when he followed his son to Fred Sisler’s house and was set upon by a group of people he thought were his son’s friends.

“You’ve got to put yourselves in Bill Cooper’s shoes,” Faulkner said. “You must put yourself in the position of Bill Cooper with his character, his knowledge or lack of knowledge of what was going on. That’s what you’ve got to think about. That’s what this is all about.”

The verdict came after a lengthy jury selection Monday — five hours — followed by two and a half days of testimony.

Marcum, 35, and Harper, 19, both of Ironton, were shot at the Sisler residence in the early morning hours of July 2 after a party at the strip mines on the evening of July 1.

Harper spent eight days in the hospital recuperating from his injuries, Marcum died shortly after the shooting.

Authorities contended

the William “Bub” Cooper Jr. was intoxicated and violent and began picking fights with his friends, who had to use physical force to calm him down.

After refusing his son a gun, the elder Cooper took a pistol to the Sisler residence and shot the two victims. Cooper claimed during the trial he thought his son had been assaulted and his own life was in danger from Marcum and Harper.