In a crowded courtroom with a row of white people behind the defendant, the jury at the trial of Daunte Wright spent much of Tuesday hearing testimony about his background, his family, his living situation, his involvement with drugs, and his past arrest record.
But by the end of the day, the jury heard very little about the single bullet that killed Wright, as they sent jurors to their deliberations.
Instead, after nearly three hours, Judge Arnold L. Nielsen dismissed the jury without imposing any judgment on the potential manslaughter and murder charges facing Wright, 35, in the death of the 25-year-old Wright, the Woodstock police officer.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s office said he would not accept a plea deal that would be “incompetent,” and as part of the deal, the case would be dismissed. Prosecutors are recommending three years in prison. Prosecutors are also asking for the judge to impose an indeterminate amount of time, in that the district attorney is submitting a statement of facts that Wright confessed to shooting Wright.
“I accept that it was a wrong gun,” Weinstein had said in court, saying the evidence clearly showed that the gun Wright used was illegal and that the shooting was unlawful. “I accept the word of the defendant.”
Wright has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and reckless endangerment, and if convicted of either of those charges, he would be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison. Prosecutors, however, are not asking for the judge to assess Wright more lenient sentences for any of the charges, emphasizing that they are seeking a maximum sentence, arguing the murder count is “strict liability.”
“The people respectfully submit that if you enter into a not guilty verdict, we are going to have a matter where a detective is out there lying,” Weinstein said in court. “He knows [Wright] is guilty of murder.”
During jury selection, nine potential jurors had told Judge Nielsen they would not be able to make a decision based on only the trial testimony. One told Judge Nielsen that, in his view, the issue of possession of a firearm would lead him to the view that Wright had committed murder.
The judge had, during opening statements, admonished prospective jurors to consider the legal decision they were about to make, rather than its consequences. “On the basis of which we are here,” Judge Nielsen said, “we’re charged with the responsibility to look at the facts.”
In an hour-long argument before the jury, Wright’s lawyer tried to humanize his client.
“What does it say to an 11-year-old child,” Wallace asked, “of your father robbing a store and shooting a person who was fighting with your father, who you knew, and who nobody else knew,” after his son was born?
Wallace told the jury about Wright’s childhood, his college struggles, his father’s incarceration and his mother’s death from cancer at a young age.
Wallace described Wright’s marriage, saying that Wright helped his wife with their children, including his son; he called his client a loving father and a decent person. “He’s here only to take care of his family,” the defense attorney said.