Jurors in the Harmon-Wright trial will visit scene of the fatal shooting of Patricia Cook
© Culpeper TimesJurors in the trial of the Commonwealth of Virginia versus Daniel Harmon-Wright will not be starting their day in the courtroom on Friday.
Judge Susan L. Whitlock granted special prosecutor Jim Fisher his motion that the jurors be allowed to visit the scene of the fatal shooting which started in the parking lot of Epiphany Catholic School and continued south on North East Street. They are scheduled to visit the area where nearly a year ago Harmon-Wright shot and killed 54-year-old Patricia A. Cook on the morning of Feb. 9, 2012.
They are scheduled to spend 10-15 minutes and each will be given an exhibit (which has been entered as evidence in the case) detailing where Cook's Jeep Wrangler was parked, the driveway the vehicle exited and its path on North East Street before coming to rest at a telephone pole.
On Thursday afternoon the prosecution rested its case after calling 13 witnesses in the course of two days. Eight testified Thursday to either hearing or seeing the shouting and subsequent shooting.
Fisher in his opening statements Wednesday encouraged the jurors to weigh the evidence that they would be seeing and hearing thoughtfully.
“We will give you the evidence...mostly in the form of testimonies and documentation,” said Fisher adding that there were “patterns of inconsistency” between Harmon-Wright's recounting of that morning and testimony of some witnesses. Fisher advised the jurors that after multiple testimonies they would be able to form a “global view” based on evidence of what occurred.
Fisher concluded his remarks by saying that Harmon-Wright's actions were “unjustified, excessive and illegal.”
“In fact, murder,” said Fisher.
Daniel Hawes, attorney for Harmon-Wright, cautioned the jurors.
“You're going to hear from a lot of witnesses who were in lots of different places...are they in a position to know what they are talking about,” said Hawes noting, “this is a horrible event.” The question is why?
Why did he (Harmon-Wright) make this decision?
“He warned her several times...he was required to make a snap decision before firing..he felt she was bent on destruction...he was acting as a police officer..did he act lawfully...watch it unfold and put it together.”
Of particular interest on Thursday was the testimony of Anne Schuyler, office manager at Epiphany Catholic School.
It was Schuyler that phoned the Culpeper Town Police the morning of Feb. 9 to report a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot.
It was Daniel Harmon-Wright, then an officer with the Culpeper Town Police, who responded to that call.
In a video played for the jurors on Wednesday, Harmon-Wright, in an interview with Richard Shively, special agent with the Virginia State Police in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, recounted his experience.
That interview was conducted roughly two hours after the incident around noon on Feb. 9.
He told Shively that when he arrived he saw Cook's green Jeep Wrangler sitting in the parking lot with a silver sun screen placed in the windshield. Upon approaching the vehicle he noticed a female sitting in the driver's seat apparently resting.
Harmon-Wright asked her, “what are you doing here? This is private property.”
He asked for her identification. According to Harmon-Wright, Cook held up her driver's license close to her chest. When asked to see it, Cook said, “No, you can't have it.”
At that point, Harmon-Wright reached inside to get the license and his left arm became stuck in the window which, according to his recounting, Cook was cranking up. The vehicle started to move forward.
Cook begins shouting, “Stop! Stop! Stop what you're doing...I'm stuck.”
At one point, Harmon-Wright said that he was on the running board.
He claims to have screamed at her several times now adding, “Stop or I'll shoot...I'm going to shoot.”
“It was all happening so fast,” said Harmon-Wright, “all within seconds.”
Harmon-Wright said that he felt his life was threatened.
“I'm worried for my life...she's dragging me along, she's yelling 'no' so I shot her.”
“I'm in danger here,” said Harmon-Wright who couldn't recount how many shots he had actually fired into the vehicle
“I couldn't tell you which shots hit her,” he said recalling that he fired several times after he was freed.
During the course of the interview with Shively, which lasted about 45 minutes, Harmon-Wright said, “My career's done.” Then he quickly added, “why am I worried about my career...I just freakin' killed somebody.”
Schuyler had been standing in a doorway of the school watching the encounter of Harmon-Wright with Cook.
Prior to phoning the town police, Schuyler testified that she had approached Cook's vehicle, found Cook to be apparently resting and told her that she was on private property and that if she had no business there that she should leave.
When Cook remained in her vehicle in the parking lot, Schuyler notified the police.
She saw the police car pull alongside Cook's vehicle and she heard Harmon-Wright ask for Cook's license.
She also heard shouting and saw the vehicle begin to leave. She saw Harmon-Wright on the running board.
However, Schuyler's recounting does not have the vehicle moving at a high rate of speed. It was not her impression that Cook was accelerating.
When directly asked by Fisher whether Harmon-Wright had been stuck in the window, dragged or in the path of the vehicle, she said 'no.'
Another witness, Brian Harris, was driving northbound on North East Street shortly after 10 a.m. on that same fateful morning of Feb. 9.
Harris has been working for Virginia Linen for about 12 years. He is a frequent traveler on this road and had just finished a delivery to a nearby restaurant on Davis Street.
Harris testified that he saw the Jeep pull out of the parking lot, saw a man running alongside the vehicle and heard a lot of shouting and shots being fired.
The action was coming his way.
“It was eerie,” said Harris, “there were only two vehicles in the street that morning.”
As the shouting continued and the Jeep approached, Harris initially thought that perhaps he had been caught in a domestic or drug related situation.
“There was so much shouting going on,” said Harris, “and shooting...I heard a pop-pop-pop-pop and then there was a break and then pop-pop.”
At one point, Harris pulled his truck to the side of the road and got down fearing for his safety.
He witnessed the Jeep coming to rest at the telephone pole, the broken driver's side window, and Cook's head slumped down.
The last witness, Dorian Twyman, who lives near Epiphany was studying online for an exam in the living room of his house which is next to the kitchen. The kitchen window was open.
He testified to hearing a man screaming and using the “F” word twice.
Twyman testified to going down on the floor after hearing three shots. “I didn't know where they were coming from,” said Twyman who heard the man screaming say, “You're not going to get away with this.”
Seven bullets fired
Seven shots were fired that morning into Patricia Cook's Jeep Wrangler. Five of those shots hit Cook. Two proved fatal.
During testimony Wednesday, a forensic expert John de Filippi with the Virginia State Police, was asked questions about a bullet projectory reconstruction which he had prepared.
That report, detailing the impact of the bullets, revealed that seven complete or fragmented casings had been recovered fired from Harmon-Wright's police issued 40 mm Glock.
The impact of those seven bullets were depicted in photographs which were shown to the jury.
Of those seven bullets, one entered the rear headrest of the Jeep Wrangler, another the right hand portion of the seat, another lower in the seat, one was found in the floorboard, another in the dashboard, one imbedded in the heating system and another through the driver's side window.
Medical examiner and forensic pathologist Dr. Constance DiAngelo performed the autopsy of Patricia A. Cook to determine the cause of death.
Photographs of Cook's undressed body with the wounds were used as part of her testimony despite objection by Harmon-Wright's attorney. Hawes felt the photos were unnecessary and perhaps “too gruesome.”
“We know she was shot,” said Hawes who felt the potential shock value of the photos would adversely affect the jurors perspective. He felt a verbal reporting would be sufficient without visual enhancement.
However, Fisher argued that the photos were part of the medical examiner's report and, while perhaps disturbing, not intended to be inflammatory but factual.
Judge Whitlock agreed and sited another case where photographs had been included.
She did not find these photos [of Cook's wounds] to be overly gruesome.
Those photographs showed gunshot wounds through the left arm, the left chest, the left side of the face, the back of the head and the middle of the back.
When asked specifically by Fisher what was the cause of death, DiAngelo testified.
“It was the gunshot wound to the head and back...the wounds to the arm, chest and face were contributing factors.”
A toxicology report prepared by DiAngelo revealed no alcohol or illegal substances in Cook's system.
Defense presents its case
After the jurors return from their viewing of where the incident occurred, they will return to the courtroom where the trial will continue.
At least two of the witnesses that were called by the prosecution, Anne Schuyler and John de Filipi, will also be called as witnesses for the defense.
Contact the writer at email@example.com