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Former Culpeper police officer set to go on trial on murder charges in shooting death of unarmed woman
A memorial for Patricia Cook sprang up along the utility pole where her Jeep came to a rest after the shooting.
FILE/Donnie Johnston/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Impaneling an impartial jury could be a challenge in the murder trial of former police officer Daniel Harmon-Wright, which begins Tuesday in Culpeper County Circuit Court.
Circuit Court officials will not say how many Culpeper County residents have been summoned for the jury pool, but, given the amount of newspaper, television and radio publicity associated with the case, the number figures to be high.
Harmon-Wright, a 33-year-old former Culpeper town police officer, is charged in the Feb. 9 shooting death of 54-year-old Patricia Ann Cook in an incident that took place at the Epiphany School parking lot on North East Street. Cook had no criminal record and was not armed, according to previous court testimony.
In addition to murder, the Iraq War veteran, who spent five years on the town police force, is also charged with malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Not only has this case generated tremendous media attention, it has also been a hotly debated subject on Internet blogs, especially between the time of the incident and Harmon-Wright's indictment and arrest on May 29.
Hundreds also signed a "Justice for Patricia Cook" petition in late April and early May during a public attempt to speed up special prosecutor Jim Fisher's movement of the case.
Given the public's exposure to the case, Fisher, Fauquier County's commonwealth's attorney, has asked Judge Susan Whitlock to question jurors in panels of 22. Some experts believe it will take at least two of the 10 days set aside for the trial to empanel a jury.
It is customary in a high-profile trial that 13 jurors be selected with one being considered an alternate. This is to prevent a mistrial or delay in case one juror gets sick, dies or, for whatever reason, is removed from the panel. The alternate is randomly chosen before testimony begins, but is not revealed until the case goes to the jury,
Last summer, Judge Whitlock denied the defense's request for a change of venue.