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Date published: 1/30/2013
After more than eight hours of deliberation, a Culpeper jury found 33-year-old Daniel Harmon-Wright guilty of voluntary manslaughter and malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle (involuntary manslaughter) that resulted in the death of Patricia Ann Cook almost one year ago.
The former Culpeper town policeman was also found guilty of maliciously shooting into an occupied vehicle, but innocent on the charge of using a firearm in the commission of a felony.
The eight-woman, four-man jury will reconvene today at 1 p.m. to begin the sentencing phase of the seven-day trial.
Harmon-Wright, who shot 54-year-old Cook four times during a suspicious persons incident at the Epiphany School parking lot on North East Street last Feb. 9, faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on the three felony convictions.
"The citizens of this community have spoken," special prosecutor Jim Fisher said during a press conference. "I wanted this case to be transparent and citizen-based and it was."
Fisher mentioned the special investigative grand jury that he requested last April--the 11-person group that indicted Harmon-Wright--and the 12 citizens that found him guilty Tuesday.
While he said he thought that it was "important that the court send a message," Fisher made it clear that Harmon-Wright's conviction was not a condemnation of Culpeper's police force.
"This was a unique situation," he said. "[Harmon-Wright] stepped out of line. But we need to reinforce the message that this was wrong."
The special prosecutor (who is Fauquier County's commonwealth's attorney) said he was not disappointed that Harmon-Wright was not found guilty of first- or second-degree murder, both options open to the jury.
"I knew that reasonable minds could differ [as to the measure of his guilt]," Fisher added.
Cook's brother, John Weigler, who came from New Jersey for the entire trial, said that "we are pleased with the verdict."
When asked if he thought that justice had been served he replied, "Yes. It vindicates [Pat]."
Weigler, who carried a bible with him during most of the trial, said that he felt for Harmon-Wright's wife and his 16-month-old son.
But he added, "What happened that day should not have happened. My sister shouldn't have been shot that day."
Weigler, who is the plaintiff in a pending wrongful death suit against Harmon-Wright, said that he had been advised not to comment further.