If you or I were to murder a police officer, what do you suppose the sentence would be? Death? Life without parole? 40 years? Whatever it would be, it wouldn’t be a slap on the wrist.
So what happens when a police officer murders an unarmed 54-year-old Sunday school teacher and flat-out lies about what happened? If you’re Daniel Harmon-Wright, you get three years for “voluntary manslaughter.”
Why do we have one set of rules for people with badges and another set of rules for us?
Harmon-Wright was a police officer who responded to a report of a “suspicious woman” in a church parking lot in Culpeper, Va., at 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning last year. The woman was actually at the church to apply for a job, and nobody has said what made her “suspicious.” Harmon-Wright claimed that he tried to reach inside the woman’s vehicle to take her license, but she suddenly rolled the window up on his arm — trapping him — and tried to drive away.
There were problems with this story, though. Most importantly, a carpenter working in sight of the confrontation said nothing of the sort happened. He said the officer had his gun in one hand and had his other hand on the woman’s door handle. When she tried to drive away, the officer fired at least six shots, killing the woman.
Pure and simple, Harmon-Wright murdered a woman who tried to drive away from him.
He was put on trial on charges of murder, malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle resulting in a death, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Do you know how hard it is to even get those sorts of charges against a police officer in a case such as this? But small-town juries in conservative states such as Virginia are prone to being soft on police when evaluating their actions. So even though they agreed he was responsible, they convicted him of “voluntary manslaughter” and recommended just a three-year sentence.
It’s hard to see a more open and shut case for sending a bad cop to prison for murder. So why did he get off with so little punishment? Why do we have one system of justice for the rest of us and another standard for people who are given a gun and a badge?
There are good police officers, but the fact that so many people are willing to give a blanket pass to those who truly do wrong makes me more and more afraid of all of them. In too many cases, they have a virtual blank check — and this kind of cop is going to make you pay with your life when you don’t “respect my authority.”