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No More Matrix Defense for Cooke

Joshua Cooke cancels Matrix defense, pleads guilty to murder of his parents.

Joshua Cooke’s sister, a college student in Pennsylvania, was talking to their father on the phone on the evening of Monday, Feb. 17, 2003 — a day more than two feet of snow blanketed Oakton and the metropolitan region.

"She heard popping sounds, a number of popping sounds and the phone dropped," said Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., during a plea hearing on Tuesday, June 24, 2003.

"She thought she heard her mother say, 'Josh, you wouldn't,'" Horan said.

After the phone dropped, Joshua Cooke picked up the phone, according to Horan. His sister said to him, "What are you doing? Let me talk to Daddy."

JOSHUA COOKE, 19, of Oakton, pled guilty Tuesday, June 24 to the Feb. 17 murders of his parents Margaret R. Cooke, 56, and Paul C. Cooke, 51.

“Guilty,” answered Cooke, wearing a green jumpsuit and a shaved head.

"Mr. Cooke always wanted to take responsibility for his actions," defense attorney Mani Fierro said. "As competent counsel, we needed to explore certain avenues, every possible defense."

Judge Kathleen H. MacKay set Cooke's full-day sentencing hearing for Aug. 7, 2003. He faces 20 years to life for each murder.

Police were alerted to trouble at the Cooke home on Adel Road in Oakton when Joshua Cooke called 911.

"I just shot my parents, just blew them away with a shotgun. Get your asses over here," Cooke said, in a taped call to 911 that Horan played during the hearing.

When police officers arrived, Cooke was standing in the driveway, drinking a soda, police said.

"I will not be armed when they get here. I don't want to be shot by police," Cooke said to 911 personnel.

He directed officers inside where they found Cooke's parents on the lower level of the home, with fatal shotgun wounds to their upper bodies. Paul Cooke was shot seven times and Margaret Cooke was shot in the face, Horan said.

"I'm over 18. I'm definitely going to get the death penalty for this," Cooke said, in the taped interview.

THE MATRIX DEFENSE, Cooke's original defense strategy to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, will remain a virtual reality. Cooke was obsessed with the popular movie, according to pre-trial documents filed by lead attorney Rachel Fierro.

"Defendant Cooke harbored a bona fide belief that he was living in the virtual reality of 'The Matrix' at the time of the alleged offenses and thus could not distinguish right from wrong," wrote Rachel Fierro, in her pre-trial motion for Cooke to be appointed a psychiatrist expert for his defense.

Cooke dressed in the same style trench coat and outfit that actor Keanu Reaves wore in the movie, bought the same weapons used in the film and had a life-sized poster of "The Matrix" on his bedroom wall, according to Fierro.

When police searched the Cooke's home, detectives found several pieces of paper printed from web sites pertaining to serial killers and the death penalty. Police seized two computers and floppy disks when they searched the home.

"THE ISSUE of whether Defendant Cooke was able to understand the difference between right and wrong … is the only issue in his defense," wrote Fierro in her request for psychiatric experts in April.

Dr. Nadine S. Fakhran and a court-appointed forensic team at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center concluded a month-long evaluation of Cooke the first week in June.

The defense attorneys declined to comment on the finished report, but it is likely to be presented during the sentencing phase.

Cooke's defense attorneys said they received assistance from legal experts who contacted them after seeing some of the national media coverage of the case. Among these was an expert in popular culture, such as video games and movies, and their impacts.

"There will be elements of the ‘Matrix’ in the sentencing phase," Rachel Fierro said. In addition to introducing the influence of violent movies and violent crimes as one of the factors of Cooke's crimes, Fierro said she will reveal possible abuse by foster parents before Cooke was adopted by his parents and possible abuse by the Cooke's.

"We will be able to present character witnesses as well as other mitigating evidence," Rachel Fierro said after the hearing.

"He wants to take full responsibility and spare his family, the community a drawn-out trial. He's remorseful," Mani Fierro said.