Prosecutor wants 2nd look at ex-West Valley officer's manslaughter case thrown out by judge

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County prosecutors want the state to appeal a judge's decision to throw out a manslaughter case against an ex-West Valley detective who fatally shot a woman he thought was trying to run over him.

A 3rd District judge determined after a preliminary hearing that there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with a manslaughter charge against Shaun Cowley.

Cowley was involved in an undercover drug investigation when 21-year-old Danielle Willard was shot and killed in November 2012 as she backed out of a parking space.

Prosecutors argued that the angle of the shots showed Cowley was in no danger of being hit by Willard's car. The defense maintained that the car hit Cowley's knee and he had seconds to react.

District Attorney Sim Gill said the case should have gone to a jury trial. He said in a formal request to the attorney general's office on Thursday that Judge L.A. Denver didn't apply the appropriate legal test when he ruled prosecutors had failed to present evidence that Cowley's conduct was not legally justifiable.

Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, praised Gill's decision to seek the appeal.

"I'm tired, but I'm not going to stop the fight," she told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/nuhfglx ).

The attorney general's office has until Nov. 10 to decide whether to appeal.

Laura Dupaix, director of criminal appeals for the office, said she will evaluate the evidence with a group of senior attorneys.

"It's an emotional case on both sides," Dupaix said. "Our plan is to review this as neutrally and fairly as possible."

Cowley's attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, said she's confident the state will decide against filing an appeal.

"There was no probable cause because the evidence that was presented at the hearing clearly showed that Det. Cowley was justified in his actions," she said.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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