Harmon-Wright Jury Recommends Three 12-month Sentences
A former Culpeper town police officer was in court again Friday morning for the sentencing phase of his case. The jury recommended Daniel Harmon-Wright serve three, 12-month sentences, but the recommendation makes it so he doesn't have to go to a state prison.
Harmon-Wright was found guilty Tuesday on three felonies, including voluntary manslaughter, for the shooting death of Patricia Cook in February 2012. On Wednesday the defense filed a motion for a mistrial after a dictionary was found in the jury room.
Friday, the judge found no evidence of jury misconduct or prejudice against Harmon-Wright. The judge interviewed each juror after the dictionary was found with the page open to the word "murder." The judge had instructed jurors to rely solely on pre-determined jury instructions, which did not include the use of any outside materials.
After the judge determined that there was no jury misconduct, the case moved to the sentencing phase. The sentencing hearing began at 9:30 a.m.
During the hearing, the prosecutor pushed for the full sentence of 25 years, saying Harmon-Wright lost it and slaughtered Cook. "It was an abandonment of the role of police officer entirely and I think it was important for the jury to send that message and they did," said Fisher, special prosecutor.
Harmon-Wright was emotional when he took the stand and asked for leniency. "This is never going to go away for me, ever," he said. His wife told the jury, "He's been punished so much. We've lost everything."
"This is not three years, it's 36 months," said Daniel Hawes, defense attorney. The fact that the jury recommended months instead of years is an important distinction. Harmon-Wright will avoid state prison but can't avoid going back to regional jail. A jury made the sentencing recommendation following three hours of deliberations and decided upon 12 months on each of the three felony charges.
"I'm satisfied. Nobody walks away from a case like this feeling like a winner. It's a sad day really," said Fisher.
"The jury made the decision they did and I think that their verdict is consistent with what they decided," said Hawes."I still don't think that he's guilty of a crime."
Formal sentencing for Harmon-Wright will be on April 10. The judge can uphold the jury's recommendation or reduce it. By default, the 12-month sentences run consecutively, but the judge can intervene and run them concurrently making it a total jail time of one year.
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