DNA touted in slaying trial arguments

James E. Cooke Jr., 41, was convicted on

James E. Cooke Jr., 41, was convicted on 10 of the 11 charges he faced in the rape and murder of 20-year-old White Plains resident and University of Delaware student Lindsey Bonistall. (April 13, 2012) (Credit: News 12)

Bleach, fire and a trail of misleading clues weren't enough to cover up the rape and murder of a White Plains woman in 2005, prosecutors said April 11 during closing arguments in the retrial against James E. Cooke Jr.

Cooke, 41, is accused of raping and murdering 20-year-old Lindsey M. Bonistall in May of 2005. It's the second time he has been on trial in the slaying -- although he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2007, the conviction was overturned in 2009 by an appeals court.

Cooke described the proceedings as "a racist trial," according to published reports, and argued that his attorneys ignored his objections when they entered a plea of "guilty but mentally ill."

Deputy Attorney General Diane Coffey, the lead prosecutor in the case, addressed the jury for an hour April 11 during closing arguments in Wilmington, Del. Coffey told jurors Cooke went to extraordinary lengths to cover up his actions, scribbling racist graffiti at the murder scene and making 911 calls to police about racist drug dealers who were committing murders, according to reports from the courthouse.

But the false evidence trail wasn't enough to throw investigators off, the prosecutor told jurors -- several people close to Cooke identified his voice on the misleading 911 calls, and DNA evidence remained at the crime scene despite the bleach and fire Cooke allegedly used to cover his tracks.

The DNA evidence was linked to Cooke with almost absolute certainty, Coffey said. The chances that the DNA does not belong to Cooke are "one in 676 quintillion," according to prosecution experts.

Bonistall was a sophomore at the University of Delaware when she was found dead in the bathtub of her apartment. Cooke lived within walking distance of Bonistall's apartment.

Jurors were expected to hear from Cooke's court-appointed defense attorneys later in the day before they're sequestered for deliberations.

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