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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Diane Riley

Encounter with jurors sparks debate

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.”

Read past coverage here.

Thompson’s lawyers cite jury interview

Karl Thompson's lawyers say jury forewoman Diane Riley's statements to media this week are further evidence of the need to examine whether outside information was considered in deliberations.

Riley told The Spokesman-Review no jurors considered information not presented at trial when the convicted Thompson of excessive force and lying to investigators, but she also said a juror knew someone who lived in Spokane and that politics here are corrupt and dirty.”

“The fact that the allegedly 'corrupt' or 'dirty' politics of Spokane was discussed during jury deliberations is particularly alarming given the fact that the jury made its determination regarding Defendant Thompson's guilt based upon its belief that 'everybody felt 100 percent that this was a police cover-up,” lawyer Courtney Garcea wrote in a declaration filed today. “Whether there was or was not a police cover-up was not an issue to ever be considered by the jury.”

Garcea points to Riley's comment that “most of us had never heard of this case” as acknowledging that outside information such as Zehm's mental illness or his purported innocence could have been considered.

She also points to statements Riley made to KREM 2 news that jurors suspected Otto Zehm may have been disabled by looking at photos of him as a sign that jurors improperly considered that information when reaching the verdict.

She also points to Riley's statement that Zehm was taken from this Earth “because of the mistake and bad judgment of another man.”

In order to convict Thompson of using excessive force, jurors had to find that he acted with bad or evil intent. Garcea says Riley's statement shows the jury erred in convicting Thompson, and that they inaccurately believed Thompson caused Zehm's death.

Judge Fred Van Sickle has not yet ruled on the request by defense attorneys that jurors be questioned about their deliberations.

Also this week, Thompson's lawyers filed a motion for him to be acquitted, saying the government failed to prove its case.

The written motion, which seeks a hearing on Dec. 19, is essentially the same motion attorney Carl Oreskovich unsuccessful argued during the four-week trial in Yakima.

Thompson faces several years in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Jan. 27.

Thompson juror alleges ‘police coverup’

The forewoman of the jury that convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. said none of the jurors brought information to deliberations that they picked up from media reports, as alleged by defense attorneys seeking a new trial.

Diane Riley, 57, of Ellensburg, contacted The Spokesman-Review Monday to voice her concerns about allegations that jurors may have been exposed to television reports indicating Otto Zehm was mentally ill.

“I was presiding over this group of people. I could tell that none of them were being fed information from the outside,” she said.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

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