CULPEPER, Va. - Jurors recommended a sentence of three years in prison Friday for a former Culpeper police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman one year ago.
The jury recommended the low end of sentencing guidelines for Daniel Harmon- Wright, who was convicted Tuesday of manslaughter in the Feb. 9, 2012, death of Patricia Ann Cook. He could have received up to 25 years, according to media reports.
Harmon-Wright, 33, defended his deadly decision to shoot Cook after she attempted to drive away in her vehicle with his arm caught in the window. He said he feared for his life.
"I just don't see any way out of what I did," he told jurors at his sentencing hearing.
Culpeper Circuit Judge Susan Whitlock will consider the jury's recommendations April 10. She can reduce the prison time but not increase it.
Earlier Friday, Whitlock denied a defense motion for a mistrial. Harmon- Wright's attorneys said jurors who convicted the defendant consulted a dictionary to guide their deliberations on the meaning of "malice," indicating they were confused about jury instructions.
Harmon-Wright, an Iraq War veteran, had been on the force for five years. While he said Cook began to drive away with his arm in her window, eyewitnesses testified they didn't see that occur.
They also testified that Harmon-Wright pursued Cook's SUV on foot down the street, firing from behind.
Special prosecutor Jim Fisher told jurors Harmon-Wright "slaughtered" Cook. He asked the jury to sentence him to the maximum 25-year sentence.
Defense attorney Daniel Hawes said Harmon-Wright was just doing his job in attempting to protect the public that day.
Information from: Culpeper Star-Exponent, http://www.starexponent.com
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