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Brendan King of Fauquier was a character witness for Daniel Harmon-Wright.
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Date published: 2/2/2013
A former Culpeper police officer could serve 36 months in jail after fatally shooting a woman sitting in her car last year.
After three hours of deliberations Friday afternoon, the jury recommended the sentence--among the lowest of the possible options that Daniel Harmon-Wright faced for the death of Patrica Cook.
Harmon-Wright faced up to 25 years in prison after being convicted of three felonies earlier in the week in Culpeper Circuit Court, including voluntary manslaughter. The officer shot the 54-year-old Cook four times after responding to a call about a suspicious person in a school parking lot last Feb. 9.
Harmon-Wright testified that he would do the same thing again if he had to.
"With the circumstances as they were, I just don't see any way out of what I did," Harmon-Wright said.
Defense Attorney Daniel Hawes left the door open for an appeal, saying he'd review transcripts before making that decision.
"I still don't think he's guilty of a crime," Hawes told reporters outside the courthouse after the jury recommended the sentence. "I was hoping for an acquittal."
In a case that shook the town, where there had never been a fatal shooting by a police officer, Harmon-Wright was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and two lesser felonies.
After arguing in court for a tough sentence for the former police officer, special prosecutor Jim Fisher said he was satisfied with the outcome.
"But it's a sad day," he said. "No one walks away from a case like this a winner. A woman lost her life, and a police officer lost his career."
Harmon-Wright will be formally sentenced April 10. Judge Susan Whitlock may reduce the recommended punishment, but not increase it.
Before the jury deliberated on the sentencing, she denied an appeal for a mistrial. After the 12 jurors had returned the verdict Tuesday, three reference books were found in the jury room, bookmarked at the word "malice."
She said though there was jury misconduct, since directions were not explicitly followed, Harmon-Wright's case was not harmed. Had be been found guilty of murder, that would have indicated he had acted with malice.
The 10-day case wrapped up with defense attorney Hawes presenting testimony about his client's character and the effect of the shooting incident.