Jury selection began on February 14 in the second-degree murder case against a Raleigh physician accused of drunken driving in a crash in which an aspiring ballerina suffered fatal personal injuries.
The defendant, 44-year-old Raymond Dwight Cook, a former plastic surgeon, was charged after a collision on September 11, 2009 in which 20-year-old Elena Bright Shapiro, a dancer training with the Carolina Ballet, was killed.
Witnesses and investigators have said that a few minutes prior to the crash, Cook left a bar in north Raleigh and was traveling at a rate nearly twice the posted limit on Lead Mine Road and Strickland Road. His blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Cook has a history of charges for drunken driving.
Jurors may be asked to decide whether Cook acted with malice if, as has been alleged by investigators, he chose to drive after excessive consumption of alcohol. They may also hear testimony from family members of Shapiro, who was on her way to visit friends the night her 2008 Hyundai was rear-ended by Cook’s Mercedes-Benz.
In November, prosecutors asked for a delay in the case to correct a legal glitch, adding “malice aforethought” to an indictment.