CULPEPER, Va. (CBSDC/AP)— A former Culpeper police officer was found guilty of manslaughter Tuesday in the Feb. 2012 shooting death of an unarmed woman, but the use of a dictionary by jury members could lead to a mistrial.
While Special Prosecutor Jim Fisher said in court that the manslaughter ruling should stand against Daniel Harmon-Wright, Defense Attorney Dan Hawes is calling for a mistrial, WUSA-9 reports.
Two dictionaries and a thesaurus were found in the jury room Tuesday, and the jurors were questioned in court Wednesday morning. Six of them told the court that they looked up the word “malicious” or “malice.”
One of the jurors admitted to bringing the reference materials, but said a bailiff told him it was OK. Culpeper Sheriff Scott Jenkins said there must have been a misunderstanding, since jurors are allowed to bring reading materials for entertainment but are not allowed anything that can help them reach a verdict except for what the court provides.
The jury deliberated for about three hours Monday without reaching a verdict and resumed deliberations Tuesday morning. They decided after consulting the dictionary that Harmon-Wright did not act with malice when he shot 54-year-old Patricia Ann Cook, which led to the lesser manslaughter charge.
Harmon-Wright was originally charged with murder and malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, among other things. Wright, 33, has testified that he shot Cook after she trapped his arm in the window of her vehicle and dragged him.
A prosecutor called the fatal shooting “excessive” and unnecessary.
Jurors were meant to return Wednesday for the sentencing phase of the trial, but that has been put on hold until Friday. The judge has not yet decided on the motion for a mistrial.
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