Jackson's former friend talks about the case

April 7, 2011

Sophie Cooley, 23, was one of Noura Jackson’s friends. She was called by the prosecution to testify in the 2009 trial. Shortly after the murder occurred, she moved to Hawaii but has since returned to Memphis to study dental hygiene. She talks about being involved in a high profile trial and what went on behind the scenes.

How long were you and Noura friends?
I don’t think we started hanging out until probably 8th grade. She was on my basketball team at Holy Communion, so I was around her. But she wasn’t my best friend by any means. She was definitely always the girl that your parents didn’t want you to hang out with. She was a little bit more mature than everybody else, developed before everybody else. She was that girl that your parents said, “Maybe there’s something a little off here.” But everyone still hung out with her anyways.

What was Noura’s relationship with her mom like?
It wasn’t very motherly daughterly. It was very much like they were friends. But her mom definitely had an issue with getting her to do what she was supposed to do. And her mom worked all the time. She was supposed to finish the Gateway (GED) work and she wasn’t getting it done. I think her mom was done. Her attitude was, ‘I’m tired of putting up with it; you can either do this or figure it out.'

Tell me about the party you all attended the night of the murder.
First of all, she was not supposed to be out. She was grounded, she was not to be out. Until she got her work done, she was not to be doing anything.

When we left her around midnight, her there she was wearing one outfit, but then when we went to Perry’s house in Germantown later, she came over in a Patagonia, which was weird. She looked dead. I mean she was just blank the whole time we were there. But I mean she had been taking pills the whole time, so I don’t think anyone noticed it. That’s when we were talking about our parents and having to be home, because it was like really late.

But, looking back, she’s always been the loud one. She has to be the center of attention. So for her to just sit there, that’s weird.

How did you hear about Jennifer Jackson’s murder?
The cops called my mom’s house.

What did you do after you received that call?
We drove over to her house and she was outside. I mean she was upset, but it was weird that she wasn’t really upset. I understand that she was in total shock, when you’re mother has been stabbed 50 times, I know that I would be on the ground dying if that were my mom. And, keep in mind it June and she’s in Patagonia. She was one of those people who would cover up, but she would never wear a Patagonia when it’s 96 degrees outside. That’s a little bit excessive. I definitely think that everybody’s first reaction was that she did it.

How was Noura acting the day after the murder?
The second we get to (her family friend’s) house she was talking about going out. And I’m thinking, ‘Ok, your mom just got brutally stabbed to death, this should not be any of your concern.’ And then we started talking about it and thinking, ‘This isn’t adding up, you’re telling different stories.’ Nothing ever added up.  When we asked her about her hand and what happened, she never would say anything.

Her mom was very financially responsible. And her mom would tell her things like ‘I’m not going to pay for you to get your hair done at Capelli and spend $150, your friends can do that but you’re not going to do that.’ I think for the first time she was doing whatever and loved it. It was just a nonstop party.

How did you find out that Noura was arrested?
I was at a soccer game that afternoon and a friend’s mom called and left me a voicemail.

How did you feel when you found out that you were going to have to testify?
I didn’t want any part of it at all. I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t want to go through all of that again. I was in school (in Maui). They expected us to remember everything. You sit down in a room and they give you your statement and say ‘Here’s everything you said 2 years ago.’ I just felt like here I am 2 years later and I have a son, doing all this stuff to turn my life around and the lawyers were just jabbing at me. I thought to myself  ‘Why am I getting all of my dirty laundry aired across national television right now?’ All of Memphis was watching.

If you had the opportunity to choose to testify would you have?
No, I would have never done it. They called me to do 48 Hours and I said, ‘No way.’ I knew they would make me look like a party girl or a complete bratty private school kid that used all my parent’s money to party and act inappropriately. What about the good things that all of us do?

Were you worried about testifying?
I was just afraid ‘What if she gets out’ all that kind of stuff. All that went through my mind.

Did you follow the media coverage of the trial?
I read all the stuff that was in the paper.  None of that really talked about us a lot, it was more about the actual trial

How do you think the media portrayed all of you?
I think they did a good job of showing (what happened).

How did you feel about the camera in the courtroom?
It bothered me. I was just terrified. I had never been in a courtroom. Everyone was watching it. Word for word (the lawyers) were drilling you. Now everyone’s streaming it live on their computer. People were blogging.

Did you notice the blogging in the courtroom?
Yes, the whole front row was filled with computers. You just knew not only these 100 people in the courtroom were watching you, but the city of Memphis was watching you talk. It makes you nervous.

After being a witness, do you think blogging and/or a camera should be allowed in the courtroom?
If you are going to do it right, it can be helpful. In this situation I think it helped people understand what happened that night.

Were there restrictions placed on your testimony?
Yea, you can’t say anything with ‘I think.’ You had to say what was in your statement or not say anything at all. Arthur Quinn (one of Jackson's defense attorney's) was the king of ‘Oh that wasn’t in your statement, where’d that come from.’

Did your parents go to the trial?
My aunt with me. My mom wanted to go, but I just didn’t want her there. I can’t sit in front of my mom and say these are the decisions I made in high school and you never knew about them. I mean that’s the thing... we weren’t bad kids. My dad called me right after he saw the coverage on Court TV and followed it on the blog. He said ‘You did what you did, everybody does things when they’re young. It’s not anything to be ashamed about or worried about.’

How has this changed your life since then?
It was the center of attention for a long time. I was the center of attention when she got arrested. You know how Memphis is, everyone is just talking about it constantly. And then all of a sudden you are getting subpoenaed 2 years later and forced to bring it up again.

I’ve been recognized from the Court TV coverage. I was in Maui, and they aired the Court TV coverage as a rerun. And somebody at work said ‘Oh my goodness I saw you on TV today.’ There’s always something that attaches you to it.

Story by Lauren Lee

Contact Lauren at lplee123@gmail.com