Judge declares mistrial in Liberty

March 16, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LIBERTY - The trial of a Liberty police officer who killed a man in his mother's kitchen ended in a mistrial Sunday when the jury deadlocked after more than 14 hours of deliberations.

The jury of three men and eight women was split 9-3 in favor of finding Leo Daniel "Danny" Cook Jr. not guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Leon Brown last summer.

"We had three that wouldn't budge," said juror Bradley Collett, 76.

He said the vote was initially 7-5 for acquittal, but two jurors later "realized they did have doubts (about Cook's guilt) after we went over the evidence again."

The jury began deliberations at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. By 5 p.m. the vote was 9-3, Collett said. Of the three votes for conviction, he said, one held out for the manslaughter charge, while the other two were willing to convict Cook of reckless homicide.


"After you set in there for so long it gets to be wearing on the nerves," Collett said. "There was tears shed."

Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Wright, who could not be reached this morning, said yesterday that he had not decided if he would try Cook again.

The split, he told the Lexington Herald-Leader, "sort of weighs in favor of not trying again, but that doesn't mean we won't."

Neither Cook nor his attorney, Steve Schroering of Louisville, was available for comment this morning.

The jury deliberated until about 1 a.m. Sunday. They were sequestered in a hotel until deliberations began at 9 a.m. About 1 p.m. they told Circuit Court Judge James G. Weddle - for the second time - that they were deadlocked.

Weddle, who the night before sent jurors back for more deliberations after they said they were split, declared a mistrial at about 1 p.m.

In testimony Friday and Saturday, the jurors heard that Brown and his girlfriend, Freda Wilson, had been fighting for much of July 30, 2003, at the apartment they shared with Wilson's four children. Liberty police had responded to six 911 calls from the apartment on Trammel Street in Liberty.

Cook responded to the last call at 10:02 p.m., in which the dispatcher said she could hear fighting and children screaming. Arriving on Trammel Street, he saw Brown walking toward his mother's home across the street from Wilson's apartment.

Cook chased Brown, who had a lengthy police record, into his mother's house, where the two ended up in the kitchen.

Seeing two knives on the counter, Cook said, he tried to subdue Brown with a wrist lock, but the 6-feet-4-inch, 300-pound Brown broke free.

After Brown, who was facing the kitchen sink, looked at the knives, Cook sprayed Brown in the eyes with pepper spray. But Brown was unaffected, Cook said, and struck the officer with a dinner plate. When Brown looked at the knives and spun around, Cook shot him once in the chest. Brown died about seven hours later at University of Kentucky Medical Center.

The Casey County grand jury indicted Cook on second-degree manslaughter charges Oct. 17. He was suspended without pay by the police department.

Cook, a 12-year police veteran who now lives in Louisville, has been on unpaid leave since then. Brown's family retained a lawyer days after the shooting and are suing Cook and the city of Liberty for $16 million.

"It was a sad situation," said juror Collett. "It really was."

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