Danielle Willard: Salt Lake District Attorney Rules Shooting Unjustified

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Six times. That’s how many squeezes of the trigger occurred when officers allegedly fired on an unarmed Danielle Willard. The 21-year-old, who was in Utah to enter a drug rehabilitation center, died after bullets from detectives Kevin Salmon and Shaun Cowley struck her in the head. She was unarmed, and 3,800 pages of evidence reviewed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney reportedly have led to the determination that she posed no threat to the officers when they elected to use deadly force. The detectives contend otherwise, claiming that Willard aimed her car at them and even struck Salmon in an attempt to flee.

The DA’s ruling that the shooting was “unjustified” leaves the two detectives open for possible criminal charges. This brewing storm has already churned up its share of public outcry and media attention, but the most recent findings stand to do much more. It causes a collision between two oppositional forces: the damage law enforcement do to public confidence when their recklessness results in innocent lives lost and the presumption of innocence they may have for resulting criminal charges.

Crooked Cops Do the System No Favors

The credibility of evidence and witness statements in criminal proceedings is one of the most important factors at trial. If the jury can’t trust the testimony of police officers or the integrity of the evidence they gathered, then it stands to reason that the person they’ve accused of committing a crime is likely innocent — or at least deserving of an acquittal. How can you rely on someone’s judgment when they’ve reportedly fabricated or stretched the facts to justify the horrible outcome of their actions? It damages the entire criminal justice system and it’s something my firm fights against every day.

The Rights of the Accused are Unwavering

Regardless of the media swarm around Danielle Willard’s death, her alleged killers have the presumption of innocence under the law. It doesn’t matter what the news anchor thinks, or the pundit postulates. The law is unwavering in this regard. We don’t bring in the guilty man and start the fair trial. We bring in the innocent man and relentlessly pound the prosecution’s theories and evidence attesting to his purported guilt. There is no guilt until the jury has rendered their verdict. Not a second before.

If Salmon and Cowley are brought up on criminal charges in Willard’s death, they’ll have the right to counsel, a fair trial, and the presumption that they are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. At the core, these are two men who were in the course of protecting the public interest when the death of a suspect occurred. How the evidence plays out at the trials that are likely coming will be very interesting to watch.

If you, or someone you love, face criminal charges, the time to contact an experienced Salt Lake City criminal trial attorney is now. Our lawyers are available around the clock to speak with you privately about your situation. We also make jailhouse visits. Call today – (801)-895-3143.