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Jury to weigh officer's account
Jury will choose view of either witness, or accused police officer

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Date published: 1/28/2013


The case of Daniel Harmon-Wright, whose fate could be decided as early as today, seems to boil down to one question.

Will a jury take the word of an ordinary citizen over that of a police officer, even one accused of murder?

On Friday, Harmon-Wright, the former Culpeper officer on trial in the Feb. 9, 2012, death of 54-year-old Patricia Ann Cook, testified that he shot the unarmed woman because she dragged him with her vehicle and tried to sideswipe him.

He then admitted that he stepped into the street and, holding his pistol with both hands, took careful aim and fired off five more rounds, two of which were fatal.

Anne Schuyler, office manager at Epiphany School, directly contradicted that statement. She testified on Thursday that she had a clear view of the incident from about 75 feet away and that Harmon-Wright's hand was never trapped in Cook's Jeep window and that the officer was never dragged.

Schuyler, who initially summoned police to the school-annex parking lot on North East Street, also told the court that Cook, who had already been shot in the face and arm at the time, never tried to run down the officer with her vehicle.

Schuyler's testimony was corroborated in great part by handyman Kris Buchele, who testified that he witnessed most of the incident from the window of an adjacent apartment house.

It was Schuyler, however, who saw it all and had the best view of the fatal incident. In the end, jurors will likely have to decide whether to believe her or the trained ex-police officer who, while on the stand stated, "Given the same set of circumstances, I would have done it again."

Closing arguments in this high-profile case that has stirred public emotion for nearly a year are scheduled to begin this morning at 10. The jury, now comprising nine women and five men (two alternates will be eliminated), could get the case after the lunch recess.

The trial, which began Tuesday, has gone much faster than defense attorney Daniel Hawes expected. Last summer, he asked that 10 court days be set aside.

Special prosecutor Jim Fisher called only 12 of 29 subpoenaed witnesses to the stand and Hawes called only three, including the defendant.

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