Judge to decide if ex-cop stands trial for Danielle Willard’s death

Posted at 6:32 PM, Oct 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-09 08:56:15-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A judge here will issue a ruling Thursday afternoon about whether an ex-cop will stand trial for manslaughter in the shooting death of a woman.

At the end of three days of testimony, 3rd District Court Judge L.A. Dever said he would spend some time deliberating before announcing whether Shaun Cowley would face trial.

Cowley, a former West Valley City police detective, is charged with manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of Danielle Willard. She was shot to death in a West Valley City apartment complex parking lot. The Salt Lake County District Attorney ruled the shooting was unjustified, Cowley's defense insists he fired out of fear that she was going to run him over.

On Wednesday, prosecutors called Rosario Gullermo, who testified that she saw Cowley and Salmon outside Willard's car.

"He was pointing to the person that was in the car," she said through an interpreter.

"What else was he doing?" the prosecutor asked her.

"Well then there was the shot that I saw," she replied.

Gullermo testified she saw Willard's car backing out, but she denied saying what was written that a police report that the car had been moving toward Cowley.

"What was read, I never said," she testified.

Gullermo said she did not see everything that transpired once guns were drawn, but she did see Cowley on the ground, rubbing his leg.

Defense attorneys had tried to call David Gines, whom they said was Willard's drug dealer. He refused to come into the courtroom, fearful of his safety in prison if he testified.

"This man is the last person, other than the two officers, to speak to Ms. Willard," defense attorney Paul Cassell told the judge.

Prosecutors were willing to offer limited immunity for his testimony, but Judge L.A. Dever ruled his testimony was not relevant to the shooting itself.

The judge was skeptical of prosecution claims that Cowley could have stepped away, interrupting prosecutor Blake Nakamura during closing statements to pointedly ask about a state witness who conceded Cowley could have believed his life was in danger.

"Is it your argument to me he claims legal justification but it was not reasonable under the circumstances?" the judge asked him.

"We don't have any evidence to say he intentionally shot her," Nakamura said. "But it was still reckless."

Defense attorneys pushed the judge to "set this man free." Paul Cassell said the prosecution's case was "unsupported and should never have been filed."

"What you have to decide is whether my client, in one second, made a decision to shoot with criminal intent," he said.

Cowley left the courtroom visibly upset and refusing to comment. Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, also declined to comment as she left court.