Jury selected for Harmon-Wright trial
© Culpeper Times
By late Tuesday afternoon, a jury of 14 had been selected consisting of nine women and five men. Twelve will serve on the jury with two alternates.
On Tuesday morning, the trial began with Judge Susan Whitlock presiding. Strict guidelines had been released in early January regarding expected conduct in the courtroom.
No cell phones. No recording devices. And no leaving. Once inside you are to remain there until officially released by a bailiff.
Waiting for the judge to enter,
Harmon-Wright sat next to his attorney Daniel Hawes. Wearing a vest, tie and sporting a neat beard, Harmon-Wright spent most of that time looking down at paperwork. Sullen and unsmiling, Harmon-Wright has been on monitored release since early summer of last year.
Fauquier County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Fisher and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Russell Rabb sat opposite.
Others present included members of the press, some 10 witnesses and a handful of the public.
More than 100 people were called as potential jurors. Witnesses were excused from the courtroom and the process of selecting a jury began.
Entering the courtroom in groups of 10, the prospective jurors were then asked several questions by the judge. Attorneys were given the opportunity to query them as well.
Are you a member of the NRA?
Do you advocate for gun laws?
Are you a member of law enforcement? Do you have a family member in law enforcement?
How do you feel about the police carrying guns?
What do you know about this case?
Do you have a problem committing to a 10-day period of time?
Can you be fair and impartial?
These questions and more were posed.
Four potential jurors were “stricken for cause” from the first group.
From the second group, two were released. One worked at Coffeewood Correctional Facility. Conversations with officers there plus the fact that the potential juror had a niece living near the scene of the crime were enough to be removed from consideration.
By 11:45 a.m. the third group was being considered.
Five were dismissed. One woman did not feel that she could view graphic photos of the deceased.
“I lost a daughter to domestic violence...I just don't know...I don't know if I could view that,” she said.
Another was opposed to the death penalty.
Two others had funerals to attend during the time frame of the trial. One of those was also vocal about his position on gun ownership. “Everybody in America should have a gun for protection,” he said.
Another worked with a co-worker that knew Patricia Cook. She often overhead conversations surrounding Cook's death. Not born in the United States, she also stated that in her native country “anyone killing another would be punished.”
Out of the 30 potential jurors questioned during the morning, 11 were released.
The afternoon session, which began about 1:45 p.m., brought in group four.
Four were released. One was a local science teacher. He felt that he would be unable to be impartial as he had spoken to a reporter about the case and formed an opinion. Another had a precarious work situation. Another knew Cook as they had sung together in the church choir. Another had a grand child on the way.
By 2:50 p.m. 25 potential jurors had been identified.
By 3:20 p.m. 15 were sworn in by Judge Whitlock and given instructions about what to expect in the days to come in terms of how the trial would proceed and how they should conduct themselves.
Judge Whitlock stressed to the 15 that they would only consider evidence presented during the trial. They weren't to go researching for other details, read newspapers or watch television reports. They are not allowed to discuss any details of the trial with family or friends. They will not be sequestered overnight but they are not allowed to leave during the day for any routine errands. Lunch will be provided each day.
By 4 p.m. One more was released taking the number to 12 plus two alternates.
Special prosecutor Jim Fisher will not be commenting or releasing a statement until the conclusion of the trial.
On Wednesday morning, court was in session at 9 a.m.
On the morning of Feb. 9, 2012, Culpeper Town Police received a call about a 'suspicious' vehicle in the parking lot at Epiphany Catholic School.
Responding to the call, a Culpeper Town Police officer, later identified as 32-year-old Daniel Harmon-Wright, also known as Daniel Sullivan, arrived on the scene.
According to witnesses, an argument started between Harmon-Wright and the driver of the Jeep Wrangler, 54-year-old Patricia A. Cook.
That led to Cook driving away with Harmon-Wright shouting for her to stop and ultimately firing at the vehicle.
In the weeks and months following the incident, former Culpeper County Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close resigned. Fauquier County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Fisher was appointed as special prosecutor.
Harmon-Wright secured the services of Daniel Hawes with Virginia Legal Defense. Initially on administrative leave, Harmon-Wright was eventually terminated from the Culpeper Police Department.
An autopsy revealed that Cook was killed by bullet wounds received in the back and at the base of the neck.
The husband of Patricia Cook, Gary Cook, filed a civil suit against the Town of Culpeper.
Later he is found dead in his apartment, apparently of natural causes.
A motion by Hawes to have the trial held in another county was denied.