Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver explains why alleged juror misconduct may result in a mistrial for former officer Daniel Harmon-Wright.
The jurors in the murder trial of former Culpeper Town Police Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright were sworn in and questioned one by one Wednesday about possible misconduct.
A clerk found two dictionaries and a thesaurus in the deliberation room, prompting the defense to file a motion for a mistrial, according to News4 Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver. The prosecution argued that the materials benefitted the defense, as some jurors said they helped them decide to go with manslaughter instead of first- or second-degree murder.
The judge will rule Friday morning on the motion for mistrial.
The jury found Harmon-Wright guilty Tuesday on three charges -- including voluntary manslaughter -- in the shooting death of 54-year-old Patricia Cook in the parking lot of a Catholic school Feb. 9, 2012, while he was responding to the report of a suspicious vehicle.
Harmon-Wright testified that he opened fire on Cook because she rolled her window up on his arm and began to drive away, saying he believed she was a threat to public safety.
In closing arguments, the prosecution asked the jury to look at what they called inconsistencies in Harmon-Wright's claims.
Defense attorney Daniel Hawes said it was possible Harmon-Wright made the wrong call or used poor judgment but didn't do anything unlawful.
The jury also found Harmon-Wright guilty of malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle and malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death. He was found not guilty of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Shortly before announcing they had a verdict, the jury asked the judge for the legal definition of two of the counts. The judge said the jury instructions should be enough, and deliberations continued.
Within the count of murder, the jury was able to choose from the charges of first-degree, second-degree or manslaughter.
Harmon-Wright faced up to life in prison on first-degree murder. The voluntary manslaughter charge carries a sentence of 1 to 10 years.