Ex-Culpeper Police Officer Sentenced to 36 Months in Fatal Shooting

A judge sentenced a former Culpeper police officer convicted in a February 2012 fatal shooting to 36 months Thursday.

The judge rejected a request for the jury's verdict to be overturned and went straight to sentencing, according to News4 Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver.

A jury found Daniel Harmon-Wright guilty Jan. 29 on three charges -- including voluntary manslaughter -- for the death of Patricia Ann Cook in the parking lot of a Catholic school.

Jurors said they recommended one year for each of the charges, Culver reported in February. The prosecution said they were "satisfied" with how the jury came to their recommendation, but defense attorney Daniel Hawes said he still believes his client is innocent.

Hawes had filed a motion for a mistrial due to what he called jury misconduct. Shortly before announcing they had a verdict, the jury had asked the judge for the legal definition of two of the counts. Judge Susan Whitlock said the jury instructions should be enough, but two dictionaries and a thesaurus were later found in the jury room after the verdict. Jurors apparently looked up the definition of malice.

The next day, jurors were questioned one by one in front of the court. Following the interviews, the defense claimed the jurors' actions tainted the verdict and that Harmon-Wright didn't have a fair trial. The prosecution argued it lessened the jury's verdict from murder to manslaughter, thereby benefiting Harmon-Wright.

Judge Whitlock ruled in favor of the prosecution, and jurors moved on to the sentencing phase.

During his trial, Harmon-Wright said he shot Cook when his arm got caught in her SUV window as she tried to drive away. He said he thought she was a threat to public safety.

An eyewitness told News4 and Cook's lawyers a different story, saying the officer had one hand on the door handle and another on his gun.

In addition to voluntary manslaughter, 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.


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