The conviction of a former Culpeper police officer could be thrown out just 24 hours after jurors convicted him of murder. Daniel Harmon-Wright was found guilty on three counts in the 2012 shooting death of Patricia Cook.
With his head hung low and his hands and feet in shackles, Harmon-Wright was brought into court for what was supposed to be his sentencing hearing after being convicted Tuesday of manslaughter. Instead, it was the jurors under oath after it was discovered two dictionaries and one thesaurus were brought into the jury room during deliberations, a violation of the judge's rules.
Six jurors admitted to looking up definitions of at least one of these words: "malice," "malicious," or "unlawful."
The other six said they relied solely on the judge's written instructions.
In the case of the word malice, one juror testified, "we understood the definition better after reading the dictionary. It was more straight forward."
Prosecutor Jim Fisher asked one juror, "After getting a clearer definition of the word 'malice' did you reach a resolution in favor of the defendant?" She responded "Yes."
"I'm not going to get into it at this point. I'm going to decline to comment because it's still an ongoing issue so I'm looking forward to seeing everybody Friday morning," says Fisher.
The jury foreman testified she was the one who brought the dictionaries and thesaurus into the room and says she first asked a bailiff if it was OK.
After Harmon-Wright was brought back to jail, Sheriff Scott Jenkins says that the bailiff did nothing wrong.
"The judge gave specific orders to the jurors not to bring outside resources and if they disobeyed that it has nothing to do with the court staff," says Jenkins.
The judge will recess until Friday at 9 a.m., when she will make a ruling.