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Couture found guilty of manslaughter, fined $2,500


From NBC12 News

Guilty. That's the verdict handed down by a 12-member jury to Michael Couture after more than seven hours of deliberations. Couture, a former Richmond police officer, was charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing Santanna Olavarria during a traffic stop two years ago.


Earlier in the day, Couture was calm while standing outside the courthouse with his family. But before the verdict was read, his demeanor changed. He had his hands clasped and his eyes closed. As the guilty verdict was read, he became visibly upset and completely covered his face, along with family members on both sides of the courtroom. This verdict ends a nearly two-and-a-half year-long case, one the commonwealth’s attorney is happy to see end as well.


The jury began deliberating Couture’s sentence around 3:30pm, but not before hearing testimony from Santanna Olavarria’s mother. She took the stand prior to the sentencing phase and emotionally described her son, saying he was a beautiful, good-hearted man, not a criminal or a drug addict. She believes he would have never tried to harm any police officer. At one point, she even looked at Michael Couture and said “when you and your partner killed my son, you killed a little piece of everyone in my family”.


Michael Couture took the stand yesterday in his own defense and said he felt he was justified in the eyes of the law when he shot and killed Santanna Olavarria back in 2004. But his voice quivered on the stand as he wondered whether his actions were justified "in the Lord's eyes."


The decision to pull the trigger took a split second, but was dissected for hours by prosecutors. They pointed out that Olavarria followed all Couture's commands, never threatened the officer and never reached for the gun on his floorboard. Prosecutors argued couture never ordered Olavarria to stop, continued to escalate the situation until shooting the unarmed 21-year-old. But defense attorneys said Couture was simply doing his duty as a police officer in trying to stop a suspect from getting away.


Jury hands down sentence

The jury has handed down a $2,500 fine for Michael Couture after only an hour, and family members were quiet and stoic while it was read. He could have received up to 10 years in prison or that $2,500 fine, but he only received the fine.


This was the second time a jury has heard this case. Last November, a jury couldn’t reach a decision. That time Couture faced murder charges, while this time he faced manslaughter charges.


Couture's attorney still may appeal the verdict. They feel the jury wasn't given a clear definition of the term 'self-defense'.

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You know what I, a non-police officer, would get if I were to do that?


I don't know, but I'm damn sure that it would be a hell of a lot more than ten years or $2500!


Maybe we'll get lucky and, when the sob appeals, they'll give him the death penalty and ship him off to Texas.

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