Buried in the transcripts unsealed last week of the secret jury hearings held by a federal judge in the Karl F. Thompson Jr. case, was an apparent chance encounter between the jury forewoman and the alternate juror.
Jury Forewoman Diane Riley said she was having an electrical problem at her Ellensburg home and called her utility company. That company sent Donald Finn, who was identified during jury selection, as a line worker who was later determined to be the alternate juror.
Finn told the judge he could find nothing wrong at Riley's home and he seemed to suggest that Riley made the call to give her a chance to convince him that the jury made the right call.
“I said, well, my feelings were it’s just, you know, just a big dog and pony show,” the alternate juror said. “The guy passed away at the scene, Karl had to pay for it. And I said that’s kind of the way I saw it.”
Riley said as soon as Finn recognized her, he started inquiriing about the jury's decision to convict Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his 2006 encounter with Otto Zehm.
“He started asking questions about it, and … he expressed then how he had been agitated and angry that the jury found Mr. Thompson guilty,” Riley said. “He felt the witnesses were fake, paid dog and pony show, and that he didn’t believe anything that any of them said.”
Riley said she told Finn that he was not part of the deliberations and all the discussions the jurors had. She added that she’d learned information from an author about alleged past transgressions by Thompson.
During the May 23 hearing, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle asked Riley about what the author told her. “Is this relevant?” she asked.
“I’m not trying to trick you. I’m really not. And you’re not in any way on the hot seat,” Van Sickle said. “I’m just trying to gather information, to be honest with you, and this is the right way to do it that I’m aware of.”