Woman criticizes Utah judge's decision to toss charge against ex-cop in daughter's death

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SALT LAKE CITY — A woman has criticized a Utah judge's decision to toss a manslaughter charge against a former police officer in the fatal shooting of her unarmed daughter during a drug investigation.

Melissa Kennedy said she thinks 3rd District Judge L.A. Dever did not listen to all the evidence in the November 2012 death of her daughter, Danielle Willard, 21.

Dever ruled Thursday that Salt Lake County prosecutors presented no evidence that Shaun Cowley's "conduct was not legally justifiable" when he shot Willard as she backed out of a parking space.

Kennedy said the case should not have been dismissed so early in the judicial process and it should have gone to a jury.

"I definitely don't think the judge did his job," she told the Deseret News. "If he did, he would have listened to what the actual evidence was.

"One person shouldn't be able to make a decision like that ... Why would he do that? Why not just send it on to the jury and let (Cowley) have his day in court? That's all I've ever asked for."

Cowley said he shot Willard because he believed she was trying to run over him.

Prosecutors argued that the angle of the shots showed Cowley was not in danger of being hit by Willard's car. The defense maintained that the car hit Cowley's knee and he had seconds to react.

Kennedy said she met with District Attorney Sim Gill on Friday to discuss the judge's ruling.

"He said he would look into (his options)," Kennedy told The Salt Lake Tribune. "They were going to mull this over, let it sink in, think about it, and talk and see what needed to happen next."

Gill said Friday he had made no decision whether to appeal the ruling.

Kennedy said she has not given up her quest for justice in the case, and she will continue to speak out for police reform regarding the use of deadly force against unarmed citizens.

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