SEATTLE — A jury should be told Otto Zehm hadn’t committed any crime before he was beaten by a Spokane police officer who claims Zehm was aggressive and defiant when confronted in a North Side convenience store, a federal appeals court panel was told Monday.
Federal prosecutors have appealed a pretrial ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane that excludes evidence of Zehm’s innocence as prejudicial and inflammatory. They told a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals it would help the jury decide whether Thompson was lying when he later described Zehm with words like sinister, aggressive, defiant and resolute.
But an attorney for Officer Karl Thompson said the trial judge is right to keep such information from a jury when the trial starts, because Thompson didn’t know those facts when he approached Zehm. It’s inflammatory and could prejudice the jury against the officer, attorney Carl Oreskovich said.